I am at the top of Fraser Island. Or K’gari, which is it’s proper name. It means ‘paradise’ in the language of the Butchulla people. It is, in fact, quite paradisical. The sand is white, the water is aquamarine, and when anchoring the boat, I could see the chain laying across the sea bed with perfect clarity. It is Sunday afternoon. I can see two other boats, each a kilometre further down the coast. If we were any closer to the top of the island, we’d be in the surf from the waves that constantly reshape it.
On shore there are beautiful shells and the detritus washed up by the shore looks like it’s been artfully arranged for some future photo shoot. There are pieces of some kind of wood, about an inch thick, black and layered – rectangles with curved corners – I found one further down the coast at Double Island Point. No idea what they might be, but they are curiously tactile.
Scattered along the beaches are outcrops of soft, dark-brown ‘coffee rock’, made up of sand grains weakly cemented together by organic matter (plant remains). Coffee rock is a remnant of a time when the sandmass stretched further to sea—and the currently exposed coffee rock was further inland and a part of the sandmass soil layers.Queensland Government, Parks & Forests
The Smalls have been given the ‘Dingo Talk’ – they are not to go off on their own, and they need to carry around reasonable sized sticks. The latter is not out of the ordinary – I am always silently dropping their most recent staffs off the back of the boat, knowing another will be found at the next beach, or the next.
Dingos, we find out, are the only native dog in Australia – the only reason to be wary of them here on K’gari is because humans have treated them inappropriately, feeding them scraps, which they then come to expect – and if you’re small and vulnerable enough looking, demand.
This morning when we went ashore there were fresh dingo tracks in the sand. We saw an old timber trimaran almost submerged in the sand, it’s prow straight on to the shore that holds it fast. Another wreck, further down the beach in the shallows, is of a steel boat – rope still wrapped around its rusting railings. It’s covered in oysters – through the empty windows are schools of fish flickering past in the half light.
We walk on, I’m collecting random bits of plastic, bottles and empty cans. “Is that a boat or a log?” asks M, pointing to a shape in the distance where the flat sand meets the raised and grassed surface of the non-beach. “It’s a boat.” Our third wreck for the morning – though this one would be salvageable if we had the impetus. It’s a fibreglass dinghy with the front bashed off – “Could fix that in an afternoon,” M says meditatively. In my mind this translates to all the daylight hours of at least two days – I’ve become an expert at boat-time guesstimates.
It’s too full of water and a layer of sand to tip over and empty, so we leave it, hopefully to be discovered by some hippy of the sea who has a bit of fibreglassing skill and revives it. We turn around – Zoe has remained aboard and we’ve left the water maker running. “Is that a dingo?” DB is pointing straight ahead of us into the far distance. I can see an indistinct shape the same colour as the sand. It moves.
“I’d say that’s a dingo.” Her hand tightens in mine and she positions us so we are walking closer to the sea, putting M between us and it.
“A dingo is not going to run up and attack three people,” I tell her. “They aren’t stupid. Just watch what it does.”
We are downwind of the dingo and continue to walk slowly up the beach as it sniffs something on the ground. When it notices us it doesn’t pause but turns and makes it’s way to where the beach meets the island and rests there against a low lying bush, as camouflaged as a sand-crab. DB keeps a good grip on me until we reach our dinghy. It’s only then that M and I look at the catamaran.
“Are we on the sand?” he asks.
When we left, there had been about 90 minutes to go until deal low tide. “The tide doesn’t change a lot in the last two hours,” M had said, knowledgeably.
As we clambered back aboard, the sacrificial sticks that hold the rudders down both cracked. The rudders had hit the bottom. Yike!
Hauled up the dinghy and the anchor in triple time and motored sedately into what we call ‘whale alley’ – just past the drop off into deeper water.