Middle Island - An Aussie Pirate's Hideout

daw keyhole  

I'd call the run from beautiful Daw Island to Middle Island, a lazy kind of run. We were wing-on-wing, with 5-7 knots apparent wind behind us, doing 4-5 knots and feeling fine about it. It was overcast again … even the sea lions seemed to be sleeping in this morning although they woke up with the sound of the engine and swam over to bid us farewell … probably glad the intruders were leaving.


sea lion says goodbye


Though you Northern Hemisphere folks are celebrating the arrival of Spring, it was just the autumnal equinox here. The days are getting shorter and since Western Australia does not acknowledge Daylight Savings Time, it gets light before 0600 and dark before 1800. Right now, it's a 12-hour day which has me heading to bed around 2000 (8pm for you non-sailors), just because it's dark out. The good news, of course, it's easy to get up at dawn for an early start.

There were lots and lots of birds around today, mostly shearwaters flying low over our wake hoping we'd churn up some breakfast nibbles. One lone mollymawk would soar around for awhile, but she/he was lazy, too, and would land more frequently than fly. She obviously influenced the shearwaters which also landed quite frequently, just enjoying the day, despite its greyness. The western horizon looked promising with light blue skies, but like the end of the rainbow, we never quite got there.

As we passed several small islands, I was thinking about Matthew Flinders whose job it was to chart and name all these places. Every bay, inlet, islet, island, cape, mountain, hill, strait, passage or other topographical descriptor had to have an identifier. The biggies were probably easy because there were enough royals and dignitaries back in Britain to choose from. But the little places must have been difficult as evidenced by some of his name choices. Round Island does look sort of round and Dome Island, well that's the shape of a dome; and Kangaroo Island, they killed lots of kangaroos there and, of course, on Goose Island, yup, they killed lots of geese. We're at Middle Island … which is somewhere in the middle of the Recherche Archipelago. Mt. Belches … a gastric distress day?

We anchored and spent the night in “The Keyhole”, legendary treasure hidey-hole of the infamous (and only notable) Aussie pirate, Black Jack Anderson. Located on the south side of Middle Island, this anchorage is rarely a good anchorage because of the prevailing swell from the Southern Ocean, but because of the week of E/NE winds we'd been having, it was pretty ideal. It's tucked into a deep inlet with an entrance between two rather formidable sets of shoals. Hundred foot high limestone walls, riddled with caves and crevices, towered around us and kept out the ENE winds that we could hear howling, but that wouldn't even turn our wind generator. We bobbed around in flat calm water, while watching white caps and breakers at the entrance only a couple hundred meters away. Late in the evening, when all was calm we could hear thousands of birds peeping, cliff swallows we assumed. Their sound reverberated off the canyon walls until it was nearly deafening. Sometime after midnight, the clamor stopped and not a further peep was heard.


limestone cliff caves


So back to Black Jack Anderson. He was, indeed, black … a black American man, no less ... a whaler/sealer gone bad. Along with his motley crew, he terrified, ravaged and pillaged along the southern coast of Australia from Adelaide to Albany in the 1830s until being murdered by his crew. We're assuming he did not have good leadership skills. He is purportedly buried somewhere on Middle Island.


blackjack anderson


As we looked around the anchorage, we wished the walls could talk. Did he bury his plunder here? Some think so. In fact, they're doing archeological investigations to see what they can find. Do these caves have long-lost tales to tell? Is the anchorage haunted? Will we hear the voice of Black Jack or his mutinous crew mingled with the howling of the wind tonight? Arrrr!