Mudlines made its first expedition off Canaipa Island to neighbouring Ngudooroo, on Monday April 24. Many thanks to Anne Chamberlain for hosting this visit. We felt so very welcome. Ngudooroo is much smaller than Canaipa, around 2km from the arrival jetty to the north end. At this end of the island, the island drops to the rocky shore by steep paths and Concave ochre cliffs. Arriving just after high tide, we saw the rush of water peel away from a mangrove lined peninsula by which it was possible to walk out to sea, toward Minjerriba, always within sight of these island. We were many today: Anne Chamberlain, Tricia Dobson, Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, Pat Zuber, Sharon Jewell, Julie Menzies, Sue Poggioli, Sue Christie, Jo Kaspari, Jennifer Stuerzl, Jenny Sanzaro.
With a strong South Easterly stirring up the island elsewhere, we nestled in at Rocky Point cove, where the western facing aspect gave us relative calm. It was here, almost one year ago, that we came across the beautiful clay that thickened below a surface of grey-brown mud and sand. Close to the oxide and ochre banks, this white body appeared in small mounds, erupting forth in porcelain white. Parting the grey skin and reaching down we revealed the soft, firm, pliable matter of the earth's body, not only white, but pink and yellow, black and red. So we borrowed this wonderful substance for the morning, digging eagerly into the rocky low tide squelch.
Today's Mudlines was Tricia Dobson, Virginia Jones, Julie Menzies, Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, Jo Dickson, and Sharon Jewell. It is now almost one year since our first Mudlines. What a year of discovery it has been. The island expands each time we enter a conversation with it.
Returning for the third time to the burnt forest - the one where the tree fell, where the tide oozes underground and fattens out the 'peat-bog ' to squelch under foot; where mangroves bind the shore and sea birds honk and grunt across the still air - we encountered the luminescent green of regrowth, further from the shore. Walking to the site we noted dense tracts of fern, bracken and fishbone. We all worked close to the ground. Oxides, ash, small leaves and grasses, feathers and mud brought our hands into and lightly across the earth.
We returned several weeks later to the burnt lands around Melody's Wetlands and in some places, the peat was still smouldering. This time we ranged the scrub down on the tidal edge way south. The colours were all blacks, ochres, oxides, and the pristine talc-white of soft ash, in long ruled lines, where trees had fallen and burnt. Below the surface, clay mixed with sand and held an alarming volume of water in some places. Beyond the muddy shore with its pats of drying algae, you could see across to unnamed mangrove shores, and beyond that, the unlikely noise of water traffic.
At one moment we stood alert and watchful like meerkats as we heard the crunch and crackle of a tree ripping away from its hold on the ground. It crashed somewhere close by and we all convened from our separate working places to do a head count. We were making our fragile offerings in a forest of falling trees!
Around the middle of December fires broke out on the south end and rapidly spread to burn 150 hectares of the island. Rural fire brigades and helicopters were unanimously praised for the work they did. As one person quipped, when asked whether the blazes were contained: "Of course, it is an island!" Containment is inevitable. The edge is the measure of all things.
Later that month, I sent this email out to our Mudliners:
As you probably know, Canaipa Island has recently experienced a wild and hungry period of fires, that spread through the southern part of the island toward the end of last week. In some places, the ground is still smouldering, and the ash is still fresh and aromatic...I have taken my bike around these charred tracts of the landscape, and could not help but be awed by the strange, savage beauty, where all difference in the land is reduced to blackness, and vegetation, like something from a Peter Booth painting, jabs up from the ground like curved sabres. And now, already, the open throats of banksia pods, having coughed up their seeds, gape golden against this blackness. We rode our bikes down to the water's edge on the far southern end, where the fire stopped, so this charred bushland meets the mangrove shore, which is a sight to behold!
A large group gathered in the wetlands this time. Tricia Dobson, Anna Heggie, Wendy Jewell, Virginia Jones, Sholto Jones, Kane Oakenfell, Genine Larin, Ursula Larin and Sharon Jewell. We all shared a lunch together after working for the morning and it brought to mind all those wonderful Lines in the Sand residencies on North Stradbroke Island over the past five years.
Turtle Swamp Wetlands occupy a vast area in the central eastern side of the island. A range of eucalyptus species, large groves of casuarinas, and lower lying club rush, twigrush, saw sedge and Bungwalpl fern. Walking tracks thread through this area in an almost maze like web.
The wetlands back onto the transfer station and a number of dirt tracks give unfortunate vehicle access, so that it is not unusual to find dumps of refuse here and there. Sometimes this presents an almost surreal apparition, as with the lawn mower found on a wide walking track on this occasion. You can see what was done with it in the image below.
Looking South West from Rocky Point you can see the other Rocky Point, extending from Jacob's Well. There is a history of sugar cane and prawn farming, that may be seeing its final days. The two Rocky Points are joined by electric cables and the towers leap across the shallow bay like giants. Rocky Point, where we installed ourselves for the morning, is also overseen by one such tower, but, we were looking close at the ground, the lush, kaolin rich clay with its seams of oxides and ochres. The shallow cliffs giving onto mangroves are of the same material, and therefore constantly being undermined, leaving bracing roots and shadowy undercuts.
Sandy Beach, at the southern end of the island, looks south-eastward, down the wide passage between North Stradbroke Island (Minjerriba) and Cobby Cobby Island. The passage veers further east, past Short and Crusoe Islands, then the passage widens further and the chop and current of Jumpinpin is acutely felt. South Stradbroke Island is just over there, to the right, the south. Sandy Beach has some of the rare white soft sand to be found on the island. The tide goes out a long way and is shallow when in, and swamps most of the shore, as it did on this beautiful day...
Our first Mudlines exploration was on May 19, 2016. This mangrove rimmed tidal zone stretches out from the south eastern end of Canaipa, and, if you cast your gaze through the tangle of mangrove branches, stepping lightly to avoid the air roots, you can see Minjerriba's south end not far away. The large expanse is covered in a tidal grass of dry appearance. Closer to the shore, you can see the dried, calcified carapaces of little crabs, clinging to the fine tips of grass blades. Toward the land side, a pinkish glow mists around the yellow-green grass, and this turns out to be an abundant small leaf succulent of the littoral. Washed up and broken on the inside of the mangrove line, an old wooden boat was decomposing, and in another location, south of this, a car was doing the same thing, though with less ease, and inspiring less sympathy. Between them however, they expressed the essential between-ness of the littoral. Encrusted bottles and tarnished cans, also, were living their own lives of change in the salty environment, and as we shifted things about into patterns and lines, the idea of the anthropocene was everywhere in evidence.