A Day on Daw Island

sunrise at daw  


Unlike yesterday's grey day, this morning was glorious and sunny. We woke to a spectacular sunrise, light easterly breezes and the shrill pre-dawn whistles of little (aka blue) penguins bidding farewell to their families as they headed to sea for the day.

We headed to shore early, looking forward to exploring the island a bit. We took long jeans, socks and heavy walking shoes with us and changed on the beach. We could see a sign higher up on the hill as we walked along the shore, but couldn't make it out. Even as we got closer, it was hard to read the worn, faded lettering, but we got the gist: “Death Adders reside in large numbers on this island”. That was certainly food for thought.


death adders sign


There were no distinct paths to the top of the hill. Dense bush and lots of bird nests and critter holes had us lifting our feet high, stomping and testing each step before the next. Falling into an adder pit was not on the day's activity list. We climbed up to the first ridge for good views and then, wimp that I am, I was uncomfortable about venturing any further and descended quickly, but cautiously. David uttered nary a complaint.


view of cups


We walked further up the beach, approaching the sea lions cautiously and giving them plenty of ground.


sea lion pair


They headed for the sea, but kept a wary eye on us as we continued along the shore. They followed us up and down the beach, daring to come a bit closer at times until we made eye contact and then they'd dive under the surf and surface several yards further out.


curious sea lions


We beachcombed awhile, with our audience watching every move. Limpets, turrids and abalone shells littered the wrack line. Other than a small iridescent abalone shell, we left the rest behind. We could see penguin nests in the bush closest to the beach with clear tracks leading to and from each nest.


shells on the beach


We walked the beach till we could walk no more … big boulders and deep water occluding our path. Our sea lion buddies still kept us in view. Some climbed onto outlying rocks for a sunbath and others maintained sentry duty.


sea lions on a rock


We launched the dinghy and began to explore the rocky coast from the seaward side. We thought the engine noise would deter our friends, but they swam around, under and behind us with alacrity, and though still a bit timid, they were more comfortable in their own element and a bit braver.


sea lions following


Ashore we saw tens, if not hundreds, more sea lions. Sooty oystercatchers, Pacific and silver gulls and terns sat on rocks or stood at the shore's edge, avoiding the waves and looking for a snack. We saw a small flock of Cape Barren geese flying low over the water, then spotted several more walking higher up in the bush, their size and lime green ceres identifying them immediately.


cape barren geese


The other side of the bay was inaccessible for landing, but offered some interesting rock formations. One huge boulder looked ever so much like a huge dinosaur egg, broken open. As we dinghied closer, we noted it was a “window” rock.


window rock


We were back to the boat by midday. David made a celebratory “Crossing the Bight” pizza to go with our home-brewed Australian Pale Ale for dinner. The dinghy's hauled, the pole is rigged for a downwind sail, and tomorrow we head to Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago. We are getting closer to civilization (Port Esperance) and low on granola bars.

Daw Island - Last of the Bight

eyre to daw  

The run from Eyre to Daw Island was quick and bumpy, 148nm in just over 22 hours. The SW swell coupled with a brisk east wind and corresponding waves, contributed the majority of the bumps. Considering we weren't really sure exactly where Daw Island was, we were keen to approach it in daylight. There were several other low-lying islands and islets about and since Daw was apparently mis-located on the charts, perhaps these were, too?

Other than the bumps, the passage was unremarkable except for a few ill-timed waves that hit us unexpectedly in the cockpit. One such wave caught me full face as I emerged from the galley with a hot cup of tea around 0230 and not only drenched me and the cockpit, but left a gift which we never discovered until it came to light on David's watch several hours later. A rather large squid had been deposited neatly on the bench behind the helm. His discontent with his situation was very evident … he'd inked us. Rigor had already started setting in, so no calamari for dinner, but he got rave reviews from the local muttonbirds as David commended him to the sea. They fought over the goodie and then followed the “breakfast boat” for several miles before giving up on more treats.


passage squid


It was a grey, grey dawn made duller by grey skies and a grey sea, with a kicker of a grey swell. An early morning mist, then rain, kept the suspense heightened since we never saw Daw until we were less than 10 miles away. We had asked Paul, the Eucla fisherman, about Daw, but he had never stopped here. “You can't miss it; it's big”, he assured us. Sticking out of the ocean nearly 500' (147m), we finally spotted it, a shrouded hulk of an island. A multi-hued grey silhouette rose out of the sea, looming ominously, a darker grey cloud hovering over it. It looked like the home of some fairy tale witch or ogre. But a sea eagle soared overhead just then and dolphins joined us. How bad could it be?


grey daw


Despite its current menacing look, it had some interesting appeal: a nice protected anchorage, a landing beach, no people and some wildlife. One guidebook stated: “Ashore there are Cape Barren geese, muttonbirds, penguins and several hundred sea lions and seals.” And almost as a post script, it added ”There is reported to be a few venomous snakes on Daw also. A unique and beautiful island.” Typical Aussie caution … all's good and, oh yeah, watch out for the venomous snakes. They're so casual about their life-threatening fauna.

Just as we'd hoped, the island curved around and enveloped a lovely, millpond-calm anchorage. Bird sounds accentuated by the barks and yips of sea lions along the rocky shore greeted us. Despite the grey skies, sand patches were evident in the clear water and we dropped the pick in 25' off the white sand landing beach and it hooked immediately.


beach view from boat


A welcome, calm, peaceful anchorage with a good night's sleep ahead and some island exploring on the agenda for tomorrow. We have crossed the Great Australian Bight. Life is good.