Archive for the ‘Brisbane floods 2011’ Category

Queen Charlotte Sound

April 25, 2011
Captain Cook is more than just a household name in New Zealand – he is admired, revered, even loved.  Everyone, it seems, knows some of his story.  His biographies are prominent on the bookshop shelves, and there’s a new one coming out later this year.  Cook has been credibly described as a genius – for his technical navigational skills his scientific acumen and his extraordinary seamanship. He was one of those enthusiastic thinkers and doers who seem to have abounded in the eighteenth century – and they appreciated him. The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) four-part documentary was being re-run while we were in Auckland, which is how I know all this.  Thank goodness!  We caught two parts of it, and it is absolutely rivetting stuff.  Though the acting is a trifle wooden, and the material on his wife tries to fill out absent detail with mawkish speculation, the information itself  is  marvellous and really well presented.  The descriptions of his closing years and death in Hawaii are moving, and very credibly analysed.  There’s a trailer for the series on youtube: 
And if you know a bit about Cook (1728-1779), you will never be short of conversation, should you meet a New Zealander.  The BBC summary of his life is good – though it minimizes what he did in New Zealand and emphasizes Australia. 
I didn’t know much of this back when I booked the ferry from Wellington to Picton (en route to Nelson) – I was just trying to travel overland (and oversea?) as much as possible, seeing lots of the country at close quarters and avoiding the un-green activity of flying. (I am guilty of far too much air travel already).  So you can imagine my delight to discover that Picton is at the southern tip of Queen Charlotte Sound, Cook’s favourite anchorage of all time.  He even travelled across half the Pacific to get there, on one occasion.  Quite why isn’t clear – people say it was such a good, safe anchorage, where he could rest and repair his ship.  But it does seem like an awfully long way to go – I can’t help wondering whether there was more to it than that.  Maybe when I get around to reading the biography I’ll find out.

entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound - that little notch between the hills

The ferry here has already crossed Cook Strait (yes, him again) between the North and South islands  and is already within the Sound.  Its route sweeps in westwards, and then turns sharply into Tory Channel.  This picture was taken looking back towards the North (or maybe more like the North East), and you can just see the curve of the wake, outlining where it has travelled. 
I was trying to check the actual compass points for you on a map when I came across this marvellous photo of Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound, taken by Phillip Capper (I found it on Flickr).

 All the world was fresh and glorious: as delightful as if it (and I) had been newly created.  It was a Monday so there were not many people out and about.  I was lucky to see one little sailing boat slipping along.  

There are seals in the Sound, but although I pointed the camera at them and it went click, they are quite invisible in the photos.


(No – this is not one of my ‘find the seal’ pictures.  I genuinely can’t see it – you just have to take my word that it was over by the little sailing boat, and visibly eating a fish.  I could almost hear the crunching.)  You could draw your own seal into the picture, if you like. 
From Picton, it was a bus trip through flat agricultural land, past the vineyards of the Marlborough region, then over a  jack-knifing mountain range and down into Nelson in the warm glow of late afternoon.   Encumbered by my embarrassingly massive suitcase, I eventually met my friend at the tourist centre.  A long day, and a tiring one.  It was wonderful to be scooped up into her four-wheel drive and transported to her charming home near Nelson.  Bertie the Jack Russell made me welcome.

Bertie Russell

Floods at Moggill – the running hare

February 28, 2011

We drove to Moggill Ferry to look at the flood waters rising and walked further and further down the road to see better.  To see closer.  Umbrellas and thin rain.  A few small clusters of people in the wet.  Most had chosen to stay home.

A hare dashed out from the verge, soaking wet, and jinked, erratic, across the road.  It looked lost and desperate – panic carrying it faster than thought.  It angled across into light scrub on the other side, where the river was rising.  Those fine, black-tipped ears.  The draggled coat. 

“You’re going the wrong way, mate,” said a man near me, more amused than sympathetic.

The hare looked so nearly okay – just a little bit of luck, a little bit of dry weather . . .

If only he can keep his head . . . .

Or, if only running like mad turns out to be the best decision.

Maybe today already he is fine again, lordly and competent.

After the Flood – Colleges Crossing

February 6, 2011

Colleges Crossing

The Mt Crosby Road runs between the western edge of Brisbane and the northern edge of Ipswich, and crosses the Brisbane River at Colleges Crossing.  It’s a pretty drive, through bushland and some small settlements, now gradually being subsumed into the conurbation that is Brisbane.  Years ago, the Mt Crosby reservoir served Brisbane’s needs for water, but it has long been replaced by the much larger Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams.  There is a village of Mt Crosby, where nowadays you can get a decent cup of coffee, but it will still be from the little corner shop that also does fast food and bits of groceries and is (I think) the local post office.  That might give you some idea of how much it is still the old place, and how it is also moving with the times.


We used to drive out to Colleges Crossing in hot weather when I was a teenager living in Ipswich in the sixties, just to find a cool place.  Not to swim or to picnic – just to be.  I remember doing my homework in places like that, memorising swatches of ‘As You Like It’ – there, or at Savages Crossing, or sometimes for a change at Kholo Crossing.  I guess we also swam, and picnicked a little. 


This picture is from a website for canoeists: looking back upstream to Savage's Crossing.


 Memory is a funny thing: I associate the word ‘flying fox’ with those places.  In my mind’s eye I can see that piece of wire rising up to the steep wooded bank opposite. – It’s a clever device for swinging goods across a valley when there is no bridge, or when the bridge is flooded out, as often happened.  (There’s a terrific rant by a bloke in Gympie, that mentions that kind of flying fox: his voice and strength of opinion comes through strongly: it’s a great piece of reporting. It’s dated March 2010.)  

 But maybe it referred to those bat-like creatures, the flying foxes, that lived in huge colonies in the trees. 

tree full of flying foxes

The bank opposite where we parked the old Holden was steep und unspoiled, with tall trees.  The colonies of flying foxes love this kind of environment.  In the air they look beautiful: large and graceful, but also a little bit scary and creepy.  I guess it was our mother who told us they were dirty creatures.  But then, most creatures seem dirty to her.


a flying fox in the air.

Usually you see them at dusk, when they look black against the sky. We used to see lots of them from the verandah of the old place at Yeerongpilly.

 Or maybe the crossings had both kinds of flying fox – maybe both memories are real.  How much more pleasant not to have to give up either.

For a long time, though, College’s Crossing has had a pretty grassed area with picnic tables, barbecues, lots of wildlife, and a nice café with genuine Ipswich staff.  Their voices and their sharp practicality carried me straight back to the town of my youth. – (Never let anyone tell you that there is only one Australian accent – the regional variants are utterly distinctive.)  I have a few placid photos of ducks and swans dating from my visit eighteen months ago. 


ducks at Colleges Crossing recreation ground - Feb 2010

a black swan at Colleges Crossing - Feb 2010


Of course it didn’t occur to me then to take pictures of the café buildings, or the loos or the carparks.  I wish I had, because the flood swept everything away (except the portable buildings, which were towed to high ground in time).  It smashed the trees off a couple of feet from the ground, tore out the grass, re-shaped the river bank.  It destroyed the man-made structures leaving unrecognisable fragments of concrete.  It is hard to get a photo of the destruction, as the road is very narrow, so we couldn’t stop, and behind safety fences there are graders working at smoothing out the rubble.  I imagine that in a fortnight or so they will have re-seeded the grass and re-planted trees: the bush works very quickly to recover from these natural disasters, and so does the City Council.  But the demolished landscape is amazing – a moonscape, a post-apocalyptic devastation that is quite stunning in its totality.  The place is overwhelmingly brown and sepia, as if it belongs in a different world altogether, or in a different time.

River bank at Colleges Crossing, 5th Feb 2011

from the road

We hope the ducks had the sense to take the advice offered below:

view of the recreation ground from the road bridge

The bank on the left is roughly where the ducks were.

Travellers tales 2 – more about floods

January 20, 2011

Weds am.

Hours of dark, pessimistic wakefulness passed the night.  It’s still black dark but the kookaburras are laughing already, throwing their gurgling cackle from side to side of the valley.  It must be pre-dawn – the time when you dread to feel wide awake – but it’s impossible to mind when that chortling starts up.  So I watch the light increase in our fusty bedroom and then pad out barefoot into the gentle freshness.  Five to five.  A scruffy little peewit has just arrived on the balcony, very close.  Here’s not used to company here, and I guess I puzzle him.  The birdsong increases: unidentifiable twitterings, loud sardonic-sounding skrarking from the crows.  But how could I possibly know (or understand) the emotions of crows?  Can a bird be happy?  Or satirical?  It’s hard to resist anthropomorphising: probably the very use of language makes it inevitable at some level, by incorporating the natural world into a human structure.  In the same way that Cixous sees language as inevitably gendered or ‘man-made’, it must also be inevitably ‘humanned’. 

Koo-up, koo-up; peep peep; oo-it, oo-it, oo-it, oo-it; chip (long pause) chip.

Unintentionally, they do speak to me.  It is wonderful to listen, and that queasy sleeplessness fades out of consciousness.

And now something is scrabbling energetically on the metal roof.  Some birds cruise in wide circles, galahs move in groups – purposeful straight lines; noisy mynahs can float, lofting elegantly onto their tree perch.  And the swallows are shrill, shrill, just as in Europe.


On Monday Dave and Maddy joined the host of volunteers helping to clean up post-flood wreckage. They were working on the swimming pool at Bellbowrie and its café.  For complex reasons the only way to cope with the muck, slime and frogs in the swimming pool water will be to keep on and on filtering it.  If they were to pump the pool out, the pressure of the soaking ground underneath would make the concrete shell ‘pop out’ – an amazing thought.  This has already happened to the paddling pool: only the weight of its contents keeps the main pool in the ground.  Yesterday (Tuesday 18th ) Andrew joined them.  Vlad, who runs (ran?) the swimming pool, was in desperate straits, but at last a structural engineer had declared his house safe to enter.  It and the pool adjoining had been completely submerged for days, and then standing in hot sun for more days.  Volunteers gutted the house – ripping out the stinking gyprock walls; avoiding the asbestos; junking foully putrid food.  The smell was barely tolerable – a work session could last about twenty minutes, Dave told me.  Only a very few belongings were salvageable.  Elsewhere, where wealthier people lived, they dragged solid wooden furniture outside to dry in the sun, and perhaps be reclaimed.  A waterlogged mattress is massively heavy and flops about, unwieldy as a drunk under its own sodden weight.  They lashed it with electric flex and a rope, and six men were needed to heave it out the front door.

It is hot steamy weather, especially for such heavy work.  Day in, day out, further volunteers (meta-volunteers?) support the volunteers by bringing packed lunches, meals and drinks. 

Late in the afternoon Andrew and David came home reeking and muddy.  They stripped off and leapt into the pool, returning to our guilty-survivors’ luxuries with great splashes.  Only a few minutes later thunder and lightning rolled up out of the south-west, bringing half an hour of pounding rain.  (Paradoxically, this can be seen as a good thing, as it helps to rinse down the mud-logged trees, and settles the possibly toxic dust which otherwise would blow around.)

And then there came a black-out.  So we drove over to Taringa for mountains of Mexican food and cold beers with slices of lime.



specially for dac

January 19, 2011

Ah yes – the Moggill ferry.  It crosses the Brisbane river just below the junction with the Bremer (which runs through Ipswich, the town where I was a teenager) and takes cars from this western area across to  the motorway system, from which the world is our oyster.  At one point in the flood, it broke free of a mooring line and there were fears that it would swoop down the river at speed, destroying all in its path.  The suggested solution was to sink the ferry.  (Our minds boggled – would they explode it?)  I, for one, felt ridiculously sentimental abot the ferry – it seemed like a personal attack to sink her. By the next day we heard that she had been saved – a one and a half ton (tonne?) concrete anchor was poured, on the spot, to hold her fast. Quite a feat – we all felt overjoyed at the news.  And I understand that her captain stayed with the ship throughout.  Amazing courage, if true. 

Here is a sequence of photos we took as the floods came up:

tenth of January


Moggill ferry crossing - 11th January


12th January


13th January - it seems to be floating further out in the torrent

Doggoes visiting the floods

January 16, 2011

Bearing in mind that the floods were preceded by weeks of heavy rain, it was hardly surprising that the parks on that first dry morning were full of children fizzing with their released need to play. Adults drifted around with umbrellas, and brought their dogs.  I took just a few photos – a wonderful way of striking up a conversation: ‘D’you mind if I take a snap of your dog?  I’m collecting photos of dogs visiting the floods.’

I can tell you that dogs, by and large, are not very interested in floodwaters.  Horses (on Prior’s Pocket Road) watch water with great interest when it is rising, but not afterwards.

Two Rottweilers on Montanus Drive, near Bellbowrie shops

I didn’t ask their names – note their disdain for floodwater? They are looking in exactly the opposite direction.

a very friendly bouncy young dog also on Montanus Drive - the owners tried really hard to get him to pose for me

same doggo - posing better now

small fluffy dog near Bellbowrie - your guess is as good as mine

Jack - a beautiful Border Collie we met near the flood where Pullen Pullen creek was covering the Mt Crosby Road - just near Dolman Road

I like the way that a photo of a dog generally also involves some pictures of peoples’ feet. I wouldn’t crop them for worlds.

Jack again - this road is in bushland and I was really pleased to see that he was let off the lead as we walked away

There were lots of insects and large worms swimming to dry ground on this road.  We had been trying to find a way around the flooded bit of Moggill Road (after the floods were beginning to go down) – but no luck here.

This is, described by her owners as a 'media whore'. Location: Moggill ferry, where a track had been beaten through the long grass to a vantage point where people could see the ferry, riding the massive flux of brown water, and refusing to sink or to be swept away

the lovely, alert Kelsey - a young female Alsatian-type puppy on her way to see Moggill Ferry

'Mister' was extremely well-groomed with a most beautifully softly fluffy topknot - the owner assured me that he is really a proper poodle, even though quite short-legged.

Mister, being so glamorous, seemed accustomed to quite a lot of attention. He, too, was on his way to see Moggill Ferry. I love the way this photo also shows you his owner’s painted toenails and the little container for dog-poo bags, so efficiently located on his lead.

Daisy, deliriously happy to be out and about, was said to be a beagle-cross, and she was ‘the cheapest in the pets ads’.  Her owners seemed a little apologetic about her patches of mange – we tried to turn her so that they wouldn’t show.  They agreed with me that it could be mites or perhaps some allergy, but they had tried everything.  Daisy had been to see Moggill Ferry.

How I wish I had taken more photos, and made better notes about the conversations I had with all the dogs and their owners!

(Thanks to my friend Val for the lovely word ‘doggoes’)

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