Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The island ferry service is

out of action. You did not even know we have an island? Take a look at a map of South Australia. See the bit that looks a bit like Italy and the blob of land underneath that? Right. That is Kangaroo Island.
My family lived there in the mid-60's. Back then it was even more isolated than it is now. It was serviced by the Troubridge - a "roll-on roll-off" vessel that operated out of Port Adelaide. The journey was an overnight one. We did it "sleeping" in the chairs in the basic lounge area dosed up on travel sickness remedies.
Going down the Gulf was usually fairly calm but the strip of water between the island and the mainland is one of the roughest in the world. As I have a compromised sense of balance at the best of times there were a few hours of agony before we hit dry land again. Do not misunderstand me. I love the sea and would like to live much closer to it but those journeys were torture.
Some years after we left the island they set up a ferry service and then another ferry service. There is now a ferry service from Cape Jervis, south of Adelaide. It is much closer and much faster. Like the old ferry service it takes cars. It also transports the essentials, including food and mail and the tourists who are now the life-blood of the island's economy. When we were there it was, supposedly, farming.
There is also an air service. This is better than it was too. When we lived there you landed on an air strip in a paddock. There was a tin shed which served as the office and the waiting area. If the weather was bad the planes could not land either because the cross winds were too strong or the landing strip was under water. All that has been improved to cater for the tourist industry.
I assume "the chicken strip" has gone too. That was the one section of paved road on the island. It was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. The driver who moved over was referred to as "the chicken". (In reality most drivers moved over spraying up dust and sometimes rocks which would break the windscreen of the car they passed.)
Right now both the ferries are out of action. One is in dry-dock for maintenance. The other has problems with the gear box. The island is relying on air-transport which is fine if you want to get off the island and do not need to worry about a vehicle. It is less good if you want to go to the island with a vehicle or get essential supplies across.
I have said elsewhere on this blog that they originally considered having the capital of South Australia on the island, at what is now Kingscote. It is as well they did not.
Back then though there were some intrepid settlers who went to other parts of the island. They cleared land, built houses and endeavoured to make a living. They had no ferry service at all. Ships called in to Kingscote at irregular intervals and the supplies they brought were, to say the least, uncertain. There were no other services at all.
My parents said they would never go back to the island when we left so they made sure we saw as much of it as we could. It is a place with a rich history. There are a number of light houses around the coast. Like lighthouses anywhere in the world they are in isolated locations. We visited them and managed to learn a good deal. Life on the island felt remote and isolated.
On a journey back from one such visit my father stopped the car when we saw a cemetery. It is high on a cliff overlooking the see. It is surrounded by trees. It is old, as old as the settled history of the island. Yes, there are some older people buried there but there are also infants and small children. The dates are from the very earliest days of settlement. Of all the places we visited it is the place which left me with the greatest sense of isolation. It is difficult to comprehend what it must have been like for the first settlers.
The lack of a ferry service is making island life difficult but they are no longer really isolated.


catdownunder said...

I don't know how to do the links from Word Press but here is a lovely blogger person who lives in an interesting place: An' de walls come tumblin' down URL: http://wp.me/ptGEy-tn -please go and visit her and leave a comment...

Miriam said...

Ooh. *blushes*