- Michael and I took a four week holiday in August 2011. We spent our time at Mallacoota in the far east of Victoria. This is another of my journal entries. There are others here.
Mallacoota is great during the day, there’s so much beauty all around, but that’s only part of the joy of being somewhere remote.
The world takes on a whole other aspect as the sun sets, and then when it’s dark. We’ve been lucky to be here at a time when the moon is mostly hidden from the night sky. This has let us see some terrific night scenery.
Let’s start with our trip to the Double Bay nature trail. We’d walked around this very short trail earlier in the day in broad daylight. It’s an interesting walk that follows Double Creek along a valley and into a remnant of rainforest, the track then winds its way upward and into a sparsely wooded area. There’s plenty of evidence of wildlife around. We returned just before the sunset, about 17.45.
We walked around to a seat we’d seen earlier and sat as the sun set and twilight descended. At first it was quiet, but with the increasing gloom the bird life began to settle down for the night. Suddenly the forest erupted into birdsong as each bird laid claim to its roosting spot in the trees. It was near impossible to pick any one bird call among all the sqwarking. The birds were already in the trees when we arrived, so we didn’t get to see to many of them, and those we did were silhouetted against the darkening sky. As it gradually got darker the birds made less noise. The sky was now turning from its daylight blue to black, casting an eerie effect across the forest. The sound of the birds all but dying away was replaced with the noise of insects who starting chirping their nightime songs. Up in the tree tops we could make out a bat flying around in a large circle and beyond that the first stars of the evening began to appear.
All was tranquil now. We sat in the dark listening to the creaks and groans of the forest, until it was completely dark. There’s plenty of wombat poo around, and I was hoping to see one waddle past, maybe even a possum or small marsupial might scurry along the forest floor. There were faint sounds, and every now and then, I’d do a sweep of the trees with my torch, but we didn’t say anything apart from fleeting glances of our friendly bat.
After an hour of enjoying this unique experience we grabbed our lights and made our way out.
The night skies here are dark, and it is a great opportunity to get out and do some star gazing. The night we went out at about midnight was cloudless and clear. We headed down to Bastion Point. Nobody else was about, Mallacoota is a real quiet country town in the off season. The galaxy, and indeed the cosmos was spread out in front of us. From here we are close to the head of the Mallacoota inlet, off in the distance we can see the light house of Gabo Island, we can make out the top of the Howe Range mountains and then the stars. There’s the sound of waves crashing and every now and then the distinct noise of a hopping kangaroo. The milky way is in full flight, stretching its hazy light across the sky. I can make out the Southern Cross, which is quite low in the sky, there’s Canopus and Altair. I can make out the constellation of Pegasus and Scorpio. Then the crowning glory of of viewing. Jupiter. Low in the eastern sky, the brightest object we can see. Its just cleared the horizon and is casting its faint, and yet bright light across the water leaving a beam of light rolling on the waves. I’ve never seen the beaming light of a planet dance across the water before. We’ve all seen the light of the setting sun or moon across the water, it’s only in a really dark place that you can see reflection of a planet in the water. Simply stunning.
Never to be one far from technology, I have with me my Acer tablet computer, with it I have Google Sky maps, a great addition to star gazing. Long gone are the days of the 1980’s where I had a sky wheel, a cardboard chart to dial up the time of day and time of year to get an approximation of the night sky. Then I’d have to try and handle a torch with red cellophane over the lens to diffuse the light, hold it up to the sky and orientate yourself. Now the tablet app can work out where in the world you are and deliver a pretty good representation of the sky. I revel in the technology, scanning the night sky with my eyes and comparing it to the chart in my hands. Finding the names and making out the constellations. Picking up my binoculars and looking at stars for a different view.
It’s a little damp, and getting a bit chilly. We have our beanies and gloves on. The sky is ablaze with light as we talk about our place in this rather overwhelmingly large universe. It’s a great chance to sit and reflect.
Finally after a couple of hours we called it quits and headed back to the warmth of the inside world, leaving the moon to make its own way across the night sky.
- Michael takes great photos, be sure to check out his galleries here.
Enjoy these images from his gallery, Double Creek Nature Trail & Gipsy Point.
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