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Melbourne Travels

Portarlington with Alice

The Fella and I decided to go away in Alice the Caravan — down the Geelong Rd, through Geelong, down to Portarlington. In the non-summer months it is a little town on the beach of Port Phillip Bay. In summer the numbers swell. Apparently there are 5,000 residents a night at the caravan park in January! How nice to only have us and a handful of others when we were away.

For readers unfamiliar with my part of the world, I need to divert to a quick geography lesson — made easier, I hope, with a map! Hopefully an understanding will make my photos a bit more interesting.

Yep, when I was a girl I much preferred to colour in my maps for Geography than do my Maths homework! (Map and photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)
Yep, when I was a girl I much preferred to colour in my maps for Geography than do my Maths homework! (Map and photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2013)

Melbourne is situated on Port Phillip Bay, a very large body of water. Melbourne curves around its edges on the eastern side, while the western side leads to Geelong, Victoria’s second largest city. Beyond Geelong is the Bellarine Peninsula, where Portarlington is. The Bay is nearly enclosed, with only a very narrow opening at the Heads. On the western side is Queenscliff and on the eastern is Point Nepean; out through the Heads is Bass Strait.

Once we had Alice bedded down in the caravan park we wandered off to explore. There is a spot in Queenscliff, just past the fort, where you can watch the boats come through the Heads. Unfortunately, there weren’t any sailing past when we were there ūüė¶ However, we did lunch on very yummy hamburgers with the lot!

I love this sign post -- complete with seagull! Point Nepean is the headland you can see on the other side of the Rip. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
I love this sign post — complete with seagull! Point Nepean is the headland you can see on the other side of the Rip, only 3.1 km away. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
the Rip is extrememely treacherous water, and this photo shows how the currents create rips and undertows. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
The Rip is extrememely treacherous water, and this photo shows how the currents create rips and undertows. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

This narrow, rocky opening is very difficult for ships to navigate successfully. Each one has to be escorted in and out by a pilot who knows the waters, hence the plaque dedicated to them.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

Of course, there is a lighthouse at Queenscliff.

Queenscliff lighthouse (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
Queenscliff lighthouse (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

We also wandered to Barwon Heads, where the Barwon River enters the sea. The bridge there is fabulous, really old style.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

The beach at Portarlington was heaven for a beachcomber like me. It is not very big, but so many shells and feathers, even a couple of sea urchin shells. I was never sure whether to look at the sand at my feet or the views across the Bay! As the caravan park is right on the beach I was able to wander at will.

The Portarlington jetty would be a perfect habitat for weedy seadragons. I looked hard, but couldn’t see any. I am sure that they must have been there, quietly wafting their way through the seaweed, talking to the starfish.

The weather turned when we were there and our last morning was showery and blustery. These photos were taken as we were leaving to head home.

Looking to the Portarlington Jetty (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
Looking to the Portarlington Jetty (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
The high rise building of Melbourne, across the showery Bay. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
The high rise building of Melbourne, across the showery Bay. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
Across the Bay to the You Yangs (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)
Across the Bay to the You Yangs (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

Categories
Melbourne Odds and Ends

The trip to the Aquarium — the wonderful seadragons

Common seadragon, also called a weedy seadragon (Photo copright: Anne Lawson)
Common seadragon, also called a weedy seadragon (Photo copright: Anne Lawson, March 2013)
Leafy seadragon (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Leafy seadragon (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, March 2013)

As you know I have been fascinated with some creatures at the Melbourne Aquarium. Last time I wrote about the amazing seahorses. Now I want to tell you about my absolute favourites — the seadragons.

There are two species. My first photo is of the Common Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus). It is also called a weedy seadragon, which I think is a much better name. Common is far too common. So, unless I need to be official, I will call it a weedy seadragon, or maybe just weedie. It is the marine emblem of the State of Victoria.

The second photo is of the Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques). What an amazing creature it is!

Both species are in the Syngnathidae family, which means they are related to seahorses. One of the differences between the two is that seahorses are vertical, whereas seadragons move more horizontally, more as you expect fish to move.

I love this description from Helen Scales, in her book¬†Poseidon’s steed.¬†

“The two species of seadragons are the most outlandish syngnathids of all. These flouncy fish are like seahorses that were invited to a fancy dress party and made an extra special effort with their costumes. Leafy seadragons are naturally festooned in elaborate outfits of green ribbons and streamers….Weedy seadragons are slightly less outrageous with fewer dangling ornaments but still they put on an eye-catching display, with banana yellow freckles and electric blue racing stripes.” (p. 44)

Leafy seadragon, off to the fancy dress ball! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
A leafy seadragon off to the fancy dress ball! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, March 2013)

Both species of seadragons are endemic to the waters of southern Australia. They float gently in  sea grasses and kelp beds, beautifully camouflaged by their outrageous appendages. However, unlike the seahorses, their tails do not grip sea weed. They are poor swimmers, only having small fins, on the spine and a set behind their head. Seadragons are more likely to be found washed up on beaches after storms than seahorses, as they are buffeted by the surging waters.

Electric blue racing stripes. You can just see the fins on its back and behind its gills. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Electric blue racing stripes. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, March 2013)

It is the male that hatches the eggs. However, instead of the seahorses’ pouch, the female lays her eggs on the tail of the male. He then carries them until they hatch. ¬†There is a must-watch video,¬†at this link to¬†the Australian Museum.¬†It shows the elegant courtship of the weedies, and then the hatching of the eggs. As an added incentive, it is narrated by¬†David Attenborough. The weedies are just so beautifully graceful! Check it out. (The images are much clearer than my photos!)

I am in love with these beautiful creatures! And I am very pleased that some of their habitats are protected by national parks and marine sanctuaries. We need the weedies and the leafies in our world.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, March 2013)