18 January, 2012

What's the Point?

Lonsdale actually. Point Lonsdale. And its connection to the Barwon River? Well, that's a little tenuous too, but here goes. From The Bluff above Barwon Heads, the narrow entrance to Port Phillip Bay is clearly visible.
Looking towards Point Lonsdale and the Rip from Barwon Heads Bluff
The Rip as it is known is one of the ten most dangerous passages of water in the world. It incorporates the stretch of water between Point Nepean and Point Lonsdale outside and Shortland's Bluff just inside the heads at Queenscliff. The distance between Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean is only 3.5km wide.
A huge amount of water flows in and out of this narrow entrance to Port Phillip Bay with the movements of the tide. The depth of water within The Rip varies from 100m to as shallow as 5m whilst just outside the Heads it is only 30m. Within the bay, depths reach 90m, creating dangerous currents which have brought many ships to grief over the last 200 years.
Queenscliff Black Lighthouse
These factors along with an array of reefs and rocky shoals mean that there is a navigable passage through the Heads not more than 1km wide and in the case of larger vessels, significantly less than this. Consequently all ships entering the bay must be guided by a qualified pilot. Whilst some vessels carry their own pilot, most rely on the services of the Port Phillip Pilots, based at Queenscliff who use their powerful and brightly coloured pilot boats to ferry the 30 former ships' masters who act as pilots, to and from the vessels entering and leaving the bay.
Commercial shipping is controlled from the Point Lonsdale Light House (aka the Point Lonsdale Light Station) and the pilots navigate their way through the Heads using a number of lights and beacons including the two lighthouses at Queenscliff - the black (or Queenscliff High Light) and the white (or Queenscliff Low Light). By aligning the lights from the two lighthouses, one above the other, pilots are able to determine the correct bearing on which to enter the Heads.
Mouth of the Barwon River from Barwon Heads Bluff
Of course, whether coming or going all shipping passes the other heads - Barwon Heads, where the Barwon River meets Bass Strait.
As the crow flies, Barwon Heads and Point Lonsdale are separated by little more than 10km. A stroll around the coast via the beach is a little longer and for those who like to exercise in company, then the annual "Rip To River" run takes place each summer over a 10km course starting from the Point Lonsdale Light House and finishing on the beach at the Ocean Grove Life Saving Club.
Whilst I like walking on the beach, running on sand is not exactly my thing, so this is one "fun run" I haven't undertaken.
Point Lonsdale Lighthouse
I do however, intend to add a walk, perhaps from Shortland's Bluff to Point Lonsdale, and then from Point Lonsdale round to Ocean Grove to my to do list at some point in the not too distant future.

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