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Pearson Island is a 238-metre high piece of granite that rises almost 100m from the bottom of the ocean to form a very unique island 65km off the South Australian coast. In all there are five islands spread over about 4 miles.
Pearson Island has a reputation amongst South Australian sea kayakers as being the last frontier, having only been paddled to twice, you shouldn't believe everything that you read in the newspapers. It was soloed by David Williamson (2002) and also by a group in 2004 who used it as a training trip for Bass Strait. You can read about Dave's solo account on the NSW sea kayak club website.
Two mates, one ute, 20 cds and 700 km. Don't we look cool!
After returning from Tumby Bay, Jeremy and I wanted to do another decent paddle before I headed off to Canada. We decided on Pearson Island, largely because of David's stories and also because of the challenges that we knew it would present.
We set off from Elliston Beach, Waterloo Bay at about 9am on the morning of the Monday the 18th of April. Having paddled through the Elliston Bar previously I knew that it was something that we wanted to get right. However we couldn't see the markers to get us out, so with famous last words I siad "We should be able to just pick our way out!"
We headed for where we thought the channel was. Two minutes later there was a massive wall of water bearing down, which broke a kayak length in front of me. We scrapped that idea pretty quickly and paddled the half a mile back to the jetty to find the markers. Having located the markers we headed out through the bar, passing a buoy on the edge of the channel which we assumed could only a channel marker.
Halfway out to Topgallant Island
After making it through the bar we made for Topgallant Island, which was only half visible over the horizon, with our destination for the evening being Flinders Island, named by Matthew Flinders for his brother, not that anyone remembers who his brother is... The first three hours of paddling were quite uneventful, until we happened upon a pod of common dolphins about half way to Topgallant. They stayed with us for about 20 minutes and put on a great show, before getting bored and heading off to wherever it is that dolphins go. We made Topgallant by about 2:00pm and were impressed by the sheer cliffs that would offer us almost no chance of survival if we came out of our boats.
This is about an 8 or 9 foot waterfall coming off the front of Topgallant
From here we headed to Flinders Island making for the southern beach on the eastern side. However the sight of breaking waves from 6 miles away helped us to make the decision to head to the more protected "Front Beach" on the northern end of the island.
With another long day ahead of us we were up at sunrise and on water within the hour making for Pearson. About half way there we were hit by a small rain squall that we could see moving across the horizon towards up. Looking behind we could see that it wasn't hitting Flinders Island and in front was likewise missing Pearson. Other than the rain it was a rather uneventful day except for a flash of somesort of fin in front of us moving at about 60km/hr. We could only speculate what type of fish it was, but guessed that it may have been going that fast because something larger was chasing it!!!
Sunrise over Topgallant Island from Flinders Island Front Beach.
We arrived in the early afternoon to the utter shock of a cray boat and three scientists counting penguins. It was quite amazing to have 7 people on an otherwise deserted Island on the edge of the Southern Ocean. After a feed of crays we spent the rest of the night trying to sleep through the grunting of the resident Australian Sea Lions.
We said our goodbyes and headed off early Wednesday morning with the intention of staying on Flinders again. However strong headwinds got the better of us and we turned back to Pearson this time heading the whole way around to see the spectacular southern side. With 100m granite cliffs and a concave shoreline it made for some rather interesting rebound waves, with what was some of the hardest paddling that either of us had ever done. 1m waves coming from all directions with no apparent pattern didn't allow us to get into any real rythm.
Spying what looked like a "fun little slot" we thought we would squeeze between a house sized rock and the main Island. Jeremy had the great idea that I should go first. Assuring me that it would be ok and I should be able to time the sets right. With that a great white freight trian came barrelling through the gap we had planned to thread. With caution making the decision we headed around the outerside of the rock instead which made for some great photos.
This is the gap that we tried to get through. Right where it is breaking is where we were to go through. The wave is breaking over a 10m rock!
On our return we were greeted by the local sea lions with a spectacular display of surfing, which is probably why they are classed as the world's best body surfers.
One of hte locals showing off their surfing skills in the Pearson Island invitational classic
The Return journey to Flinders Island was rather uneventful and painful, after the previous days slog. And we both retired early in preperation for our final day back to Elliston.
Friday was by far the hardest day of the trip. With only 17Nm back to Elliston we didn't especially far to go. However it was an hour or two before we could see the mainland and it took us quite some time before we could even distinguish just where exactly Waterloo Bay was. At one stage I remember looking at Jez and enving just how easy he looked paddling next to me. There was a part of my body that wasn't hurting and there he was looking like he was cruising along happily. I was quite happy when he told me later that he had looked over at me during the day and thought the exact same thing! After about 5 hours paddling we were finally made the entrance of the bay and the had a terrible time trying to find the markers again. We didn't, but we found the bouy that we had found on the way out and assumed once again that it marked the channel. We used this as our guide and headed straight back into the bay without any further problems. However as we were packing up on the beach a local came down and told us that we hda come right past his cray pots which he puts right on the edge of the reef wher it will break on a really big wave. Great.
In all it was another great trip to one of South Australia's beautiful offshore islands.