The wonders of the Great Ocean Road are offer vivid Martian panoramas contrasted by the harsh southern ocean.
Australia’s vast desert interior encroaching on the sea.
A jagged sharp rift in the landscape, torn asunder by Neptune.
A stark contrast to the scale of the smooth lines of the faultless crescent that defines Bridgewater Bay, saddled upon the remnants of the rim of a once massive volcanic island crater, that dates back to the Pleistocene epoch.
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We had driven all this way and still had a 90 minute hike ahead of us to reach the holy grail.
Truth be known it was the unique marine wildlife that drew us to this special place.
Cape Bridgewater is home to Australians largest fur seal colony.
Wildlife abound the cape is teeming with movement as wallabies bounce by and flutter past. the vegetation is diverse and dense. The coastal shrubs found here have adapted hard, waxy leaves to survive the salty winds. Grass tress , hakeas, wattles and eucalypts such as the unusual soap malle with it’s large and woody root grow here. Flowers such as White and Common Correas provide a rich food source and safe haven to at least 66 rare and endangered species found here.
The hike to the seal colony snaking along the cliffs edge offers breath taking perspectives of the mainland.
At some 135m this is the highest sea cliff in Victoria.
Two million years ago this was the top of a volcanic vent. These cliffs are formed by layers of volcanic ash called tuff and are the remains of an enourmous caldera which stretched halfway across Bridgewater Bay, part of an enourmous volcanic belt that extends west from Melbourne for some 350 klms, almost to the South Australian border. The crater later collapsed along a fault line and subsided beneath the ocean.
TOWER HILL, VICTORIA
It’s because the Continental shelf here is really narrow which results in a unique ecological event called the Bonney Upwelling, an irresistible banquet and one of nature’s greatest feeding events which occurs each year between November and April.
Put simply, upwellings are powerhouses of oceanic nutrient cycling.
Driven by the prevailing winds, the process of upwelling draws deep, nutrient-rich cold water upwards towards the ocean’s surface replacing the warmer, usually nutrient-depleted, surface water. The nutrients in upwelled water consist of decaying plant and animal matter that had sunk to the ocean’s depths.
As it rises to the surface it creates an explosion of microscopic plants, which in turn feed great swarms of krill, and so on up the food chain to the immense Blue Whale.
It astounded me to learn that upwelling events like this cover only one per cent of the ocean surface worldwide. However, they account for 50% of global fisheries production and are vitally important habitats for marine fauna. Thus it’s vitally important to protect these habitats from Super trawlers.
To protect this special place Discovery Bay Marine National Park was declared in 2002 and forms part of a network of marine national parks and sanctuaries managed by Parks Victoria.
This new life is an irresistible banquet for a vast array of marine life such as fish, dolphins, whales, all manner of birdlife and ofcourse seals.
(Imagine attending a banquet where you could end up on the menu)
The NZ fur seal is generally smaller, with a slightly pointed snout and a darker coat.
Spending most of the year at sea, males haul themselves ashore in the middle of October to establish territories through display, vocalisations, sparring, and sometimes actual combat. They fast at this time and do not eat until after mating in November or December.
A unique genetic phenomenon called ‘delayed implantation’, allows a fertilized egg to lie dormant within the female seal for up to 3 months before it starts to develop. Ensuring the pups have a higher chance of survival, always being born in the warmer summer waters.
With a year’s gestation, mating begins a week after the previous seasons litter has been born.
Given that they can dive deeper and longer than any other fur seal, The Australian subspecies generally feeds at lower depths, on average they dive for 1-2mins at a time however females can dive for about 9 minutes and to a depth of about 312 metres, whilst males can dive for about 15 minutes to a depth of about 380 metres, in search of a varied diet of squid, octopus, fish, and lobsters and have even been known to have penguins on the menu.
Our furry friends of the frothy sea
They look so innocent and playful, it’s easy to see how such a graceful creature could be hunted to the edge of extinction.
Just watching them play one gets the impression that they are incredibly curious creature.
They seem to have an endearing nature to them, 130m up on the cliff edge anyway.
I guess a lion looks like a cute fluffy kitty too when they are lounging about.
The disbelief that this is the only colony/s of it’s kind, it’s sad to think that this is all we have left after two centuries of Sealing
A place of reflection on humanity’s short comings.
It is quite sobering, the destruction of man, the animals forced to retreat to locales unforgiving of man-kind.