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, 14 August 2013

Rock Art at Bigge Island

morning across Prudhoe Island

leaving Shelter Bay

Monday 17th June 2013
Rock Art at Bigge Island –
Montague Sound and a Lumpy Night in York Sound

It took us exactly two hours to sail from Shelter Bay at Prudhoe Island to Wary Bay on the NW side of Bigge Island some 8n/m away. (14’28.071E – 125’08.669S) This was only a stop-off, stopping just long enough to go exploring and then we were on our way again. The reason for the stop-off; Bigge Island is famous for some amazing rock art paintings known as the Wandjina figures that are spread over many sites.

track on the beach
To the Aboriginal people who live in the Central, Northern and East Kimberley region including Mitchell Plateau and King Edward River areas of Western Australia the Wandjina has a deep and meaningful relationship with their heritage and their culture. The Wandjina has for many years appeared on bark coolamons which were used for food gathering and for cradles for newborn babies, ceremonial boomerangs and shields and a myriad of symbolic artifacts - the Wandjina is part of the lives of the tribes who have for so many years lived, hunted and survived in the country of the Wandjina rock art.

In Aboriginal culture the Wandjina is the Rain Spirit of the Wunambal, Wororra and Ngarinyin language people, the controller of the Seasons, the bringer of rain which equals water which equals life itself. Then it says that the Earth is hot and that it breathes; the Earth it breathes, it's a steam blow up, and it gives cloud to give rain. Rain gives fruit, and everything grows, and the trees and the grass to feed other things, kangaroos and birds and everything. With the completion of their earthly tasks, each of the Wandjina turned into a rock face image. There the Wandjina spirits continue to live.
figures with smoking pipes
The Wandjina figures are strange, majestic creatures usually painted against a white background. An oval band encircles the face except for a break at the chin and from the outer edge of the head, lines radiate out. They are often shown wearing a headband; the eyes and nose form one unit with lashes encircling both eyes and they are rarely given a mouth. The body when there is one is filled with parallel stripes down the arms and legs. Long lines coming out from the hair are the feathers which Wandjinas wore and the lightning which they control.


Wandjina ceremonies, to ensure the timely beginning of the monsoon wet season and sufficient rainfall were held during December and January, following which the rains usually begin. The figures are generally drawn surrounded by the totemic beings and creatures associated with them, on which they depend for sustenance, and these caves and rock shelters become a focus of tribal religion and ritual action.

Aboriginal people believe that if the Wandjina are offended then they will take their revenge by calling up lightning to strike the offender dead or the rain to flood the land and drown the people or the cyclone with its winds to devastate the country. These are the powers which the Wandjinas can use. Aboriginal culture teaches it is possible for new life to emanate from the figures adorning the cave walls, to re-enter the physical world as unborn children. Such places are sites to which local Aborigines have a deeply spiritual attachment. These Wandjina are seen to have considerable powers and the Aborigines are careful to observe a certain amount of protocol when they approach the paintings, fearing that if they do not, the spirits might take their revenge. This protocol normally consists of calling out to the Wandjinas from several yards' distance, to tell them a party is approaching and will not harm the paintings. Although the paintings represent the bodies of the dead Wandjinas, the Aborigines believe the spirits of the Wandjinas live on in much the same way as they believe the spirits of human beings continue to exist after their death.
Wary Bay was a site for these special Wandjina figure paintings and one in particular, Father Kaiara.

the labyrinth of caves
The rock art sites at Wary Bay were located in what they call mini gorges in the rock cliffs at the south-western end of the beach. To me the mini gorges were like interlinking small caves. The majority of these rock art paintings were in excellent condition having been protected from the ravages of the elements. The face of the Father Kaiara from the Wary Bay gallery is probably one of the most spectacular and frequently published photos of aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley.

The Wandjina figures on Bigge Island are known as Kaiaira or Sea Wandjinas; they are close to the sea not up on high cliffs. These Wandjina figures were distinctive with their halos around the head of each figure. These halos represent clouds as the Wandjina are cloud spirits intimately linked to the weather, water and life. The Wandjina figures were painted by the Wunambal people and their legends tell us these Wandjinas were brought by the waterspout from the sea.

Father Kaiara
The figure of Father Kaiara was an imposing figure, larger than me or MrJ; he was watching over the sea to the northwest through his dark, deeply engraved eyes. The paintings of his children or followers were varied in form, some of whom could have been early European visitors such as the Dutch, English, or Portuguese sailors of the 1600’s as images of sailing ships and figures smoking pipes were also evident. Or were the figures of later visitors, for example the French sailors of Baudin's expedition of the early 1800’s? We will probably never know!
large turtle nest and tracks

On the way back to the tinny MrJ and I walked further along the beach and came upon some freshly made turtle egg nest. I knew that these nests were fresh as the track of the turtles were still fresh and had not been washed by the sea or windblown. Maybe the tracks were as fresh as the night before?
How long does it take for the eggs to hatch? This I will have to read up about! (Gestation: 6-10 weeks.)

What a magical place was this Bigge Island and I was so thankful for having been able to experience its magic.
MrJ tries his hand at fishing again

anchorage in York Sound
 MrJ and I sailed away from Wary Bay down the western side of Bigge Island, we sailed south, deep into the eastern bay of York Sound. We were heading for the inlet known as Rainforest Ravine but changed our minds, as we do, when the weather had turned. (14’54.690E – 125’16.135S) We were thinking that inside the main part of the bay around the southern point would give us better protection from the westerly winds but then as it always happens, the wind changed again to the opposite direction. And so it did and we had a sloppy anchorage and not much sleep. Sa la vie!
good night from York Sound

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