Day 213, Tuesday, 18.08.2009

Launching this morning was a bit wet, as I stupidly timed it not perfect through the moderate breakers. At least it woke me up!

I didn’t really like the almost overcasted sky, as I was aware I won’t have any moon during the night. So I was hoping at least for some stars on the dark sky! I noticed a bit relieved this morning the swell was much less than yesterday’s 4 meters, and the night’s paddle should be hopefully not too tough.


I had to paddle out of the bay to the open sea into the moderate north-westerly, but again I preferred to be way out there, about 5 km, free of any rebound action of the cliffs. The direct course to Kalbarri would take me even 10 km offshore! Nothing to worry about, I’d rather be free floating way off the cliffs than in case of a problem getting drifted towards them too fast. 

Once I could turn in to my planned bearing of 150 degrees, the north-westerly was nicely pushing me along on a moderate 2m-swell! I noted a good speed on my GPS, and was able to average including rest and food breaks 7km/hr with my empty boat! This was fast for me!

But the moderate north-westerly freshened up during the afternoon to about 20-25 kn, so was the swell lifting to 4 meters again, plus some 2 meters whitecapping seas on top! I was hoping very much it would get down towards darkness as forecasted!

I was not seasick today, thinking my stomach got slowly used today towards the big stuff. On my scheduled sat-phone calls at 6pm to Terry and Greg I was in high spirits to get through the cliffs in a very fast time! I was averaging easily due 7 km/hr, and I was joking on my calls this would make me probably arriving in darkness next day – but in the morning instead of in the night! My realistic previous goal was to arrive next day well before dusk.

I was calculating I would be down to 90km at 7pm, 12 hrs paddled, and if conditions won’t change much during the night, I could arrive around 8.30am next morning.


BUT – conditions changed MUCH during the night!

First, I noticed I got seasick sitting there at 6pm, not paddling, but just calling briefly in to Terry and Greg, texting my position message to Karel, putting my cag on with the hood and pulling out my two torches. It may have taken me about 10 min only, but too much for me. It was big 4 meters swell and quite rough increasing seas, balancing the empty boat on calling and texting was not easy. I couldn’t look to the horizont on that task, this was the problem. I was fighting seasickness successfully for the next two hours, but felt the inevitable coming up soon.

Full darkness came in at 7pm. I knew there won’t be any moonlight, but I was hoping the stars make enough light to at least see the horizont! I had never paddled in FULL darkness, and the big seas and swell won’t make it any easier! I felt I had to experience with light options, and eventually felt comfortable with a head torch shining at least around on the waters surface. I couldn’t stand my usually all night slightly lit GPS, it was too dazzling on my eyes, so I switched the permanent light off and occasionally shone quickly with my headtorch on the display to see my position and progress.


And I was seeing an UFO at 7.30!!!! No joking! I first thought it was a green signal flare fired off by the rescue team to show me they are out there in position in the night (which for sure they were not…). But I soon realized a flare is going not horizontally down only, and is wayyyyyyyy less big and bright! I reckon it must have been an meteorite or a piece of a spaceshuttle entering the atmosphere burning up brightly green for about five or more seconds! It was an amazing nature spectacle…

I was feeling the upcoming seasickness got worse in the darkness at 8pm, and I eventually had to throw up my last feed of an apple and ceral bar…don’t even think I am looking at what was landing on my spraydeck…I kept on looking ahead to the barely visible horizont and washing it aways as fast as possible. But I was not as relieved as usual, thinking there is still a rest of food in my stomach wanting to come out! 

The next throwing up session was at 9.15pm, this time triggered by two salty fingers in my mouth, and I though now my stomach is empty, I’m feeling better!


The problem of the night was soon clear: The visual horizont was mostly NOT there, as the horizont was in darkness covered mostly in some fog, and this made paddling in those big seas and swells almost impossible. I could paddle a few strokes, but as soon as there was no visual horizont any more, I had to switch simply into “survival mode”.

This was for me and my comfort level to lay on my back deck, with the paddle bracing on the surface. I need my PFD strapped on my backdeck for a somwhat comfortable padding for this purpose. My “pillow” is my hair bun…When I have the PFD on, I can’t rest on my backdeck. But I hooked myself to my boat with a line, in case of a not unlikely swim…I wonder about my rolling skills in such rough conditions in complete darkness? I really didn’t want to try…

From about 7.30pm until almost dawn, I was thinking NOTHING else than only two words: “Survival mode, survival mode, survival mode…” like a mantra, to get my brain fully concentrated on exactly this only task: surviving the long 11-hrs dark very rough night. No thoughts about making progress…

In moderate conditions with a loaded boat I can lay there on my backdeck and rest withouth locking my knees or even bracing seriously with my paddle and even closing my eyes for a catnap. But this night I stayed wide awake with no problems, my hands were cramped on my paddle, feeling constantly on the right side the surface of the rough sea. Survival mode…survival mode..survival mode…


I was really kicking my ass for not taking my paddle floats with me for the stable outrigger setup I have successfully used on my crossing of the Gulf of Carpentaria…but I was not planning on sleeping that night! And somewhat I didn’t really anticipate I would have any trouble balancing and paddling…Survival mode…survival mode..survival mode…

Every five minutes or so a big breaker was approaching and tried to crash over me, and without throwing myself into it even from the lying position, I would have capsized. When I was not alreday lying on the back deck, the sound of the approaching breaker made me instantly throwing my body backwards towards the more stable lying position, plus the bracing into it’s foamy waters. Survival mode…survival mode..survival mode…

I was checking frequently on a lit gap on the horizont which would enable me to at least sit upright again for a few paddle strokes to relax my cramped permanently bracing arms, not to think about making any paddling progress! But the night had about 5 rain squalls in store for me, each lasting for about half an hour or so, which made the sky fully dark! So there was not much active forward progress possible. At least the strong north-westerly was pushing me into the right direction, and I was offshore enough to feel safe about not getting pushed towards the clifffs. Survival mode…survival mode..survival mode…

To make the night even more pleasant, the flying fish, quite active during the day, obviously couldn’t see me during the night and were frequently flying into me and my boat. I was smelling about three times like a fish, as one of them was hitting me somewhere on my cag or spraydeck. At least I didn’t get one in my face! Survival mode…survival mode..survival mode…

At around 2am I noticed a change in wind direction, it swung around to the west, and later to the south-west. This made me thinking I URGENTLY need to paddle a bit to at least maintain a safe distance off the cliffs! At least my GPS showed me still being some 3-4 km away, but the distance was constantly closing up! I felt a bit scared, and tried to orientate myself in which direction I would have to paddle! Still not much  horizont or stars out there…and few paddle strokes possible…Survival mode…survival mode..survival mode…

Around 4am I was able to see the horizont relatively well, and I could try to paddle some distance into the right direction, and not only off the cliffs to maintain a reasonable distance! I had a hard time to simply *see* my GPS, as the light shone on it was dazzling my eyes. At some point I was messing up the navigation star I chose, and was paddling simply into the wrong direction for a while.

At 6am, my sat-phone call with Terry was scheduled, but I gave him a very brief “I’m ok” meassage only, and “I’ll call you when it’s really light in about an hour!”. I still didn’t feel too happy out there, and I was paddling into headwinds in big seas.



Text message from Freya via satellite phone:

26.57 113.39.  73km down 97 km left to go

Note from Chris Cunningham:

Freya is paddling along the Zuytdorp cliffs. From Paul Caffyn’s The Dreamtime Voyage:

“The Zuytdorp Cliffs extend southwards for a distance of 126 unbroken miles from Steep Point to Kalibarri. Horizontally bedded limestone has been eroded into a continuous line of near vertical cliffs which reach a maximum vertical height of over 600 feet.”

The cliffs have to be paddled in one go as no landing is possible.

24 comments on “Day 213, Tuesday, 18.08.2009


Actually, it’s spelled Great Southern Bight ( “bight” is the geographic term for a curve of coastline encompassing a broad bay). Although I admit that the idea of it being a like a “bite” out of the continent has an imaginative appeal.


At the speed Freya is travelling it will be just coming into Spring when she rounds the corner onto the South coast of Western Australia and the Southern Ocean.
Basically the swell gets bigger from here on down the West Aussie coast but on current form she will fly through that.
The woman just ate the Zuytdoorp Cliffs!


pam…the BITE is that big ass indentation in the southern ocean that looks like, well, a bite….big water down yonder…

PaddleHEAD Pete

Way to go Freya!
Thought you might land on the northern beach and portage over the sand into the river mouth at Kalbarri. How did the landing go??


Pam Mayhew

Huge sigh of relief – great work Freya. Can anyone tell me what the “Bite” is – sounds ominous. Nothing that Freya can’t handle, I’m sure. I am really enjoying this blog, and learning so much about Australia’s geography. Another question – when Freya reaches the south coast of Australia, will it still be winter? And what will the paddling conditions be like? Thanks to everyone for their comments.


Back from holiday after 3 weeks away, 3 weeks withdrawal!
On a boat trip along some cliffs, I said to the others how they would like to paddle along here with these waves. No one fancied that idea. Then I said imagine the cliffs 3 times the hight and also the waves… that’s what auntie Freya is likely doing right now. The kids were suitably impressed and it made it all so real for them.
Bet you are arriving as I am typing this?

PS: What a delight to catch up with the blog though.

Watkins Crew (Esperance WA)

Well done Freya,

Like everyone else, we can also breath a sigh of relief.

Hi Freya,
I have followed your progress every day but I held my breath for this stage. Fantastic effort! Well done and congratulations.


pam dickenson

So happy to hear from Terry’s wife Alaine that you made it safely from us at Steep Point to Kalbarri in 3 days. Amazing!!!Hope the experience puts you in good stead for the Bite.Good Luck

Simon Birch

I’m sure Freya’s prepared, but the section through the narrow channel into the rivermouth at Kalbarri can be very tricky with intimidating surf, even when you’re fresh. But there’s not much choice, I can’t think of a better landing place in the next 10km or so. There are usually plenty of boats coming and going through the channel, not sure if that’s a good thing or not!

If there’s anyone reading in Geraldton/Kalbarri who has a video camera, it would be awesome footage to capture the last few minutes of this stage.

Chuck H.

Phil: Many thanks for the time info and progress update, Phil. Sounds like Freya is making excellent time. She is an amazing athlete. Give her a great reception when she arrives!!!


Text message was at 1800 hrs and at 0600 this morning WEDNESDAY Freya was 53 klm out of Kalbarri . GO FREYA !!!


Hi Freya

I hope this morning finds you strong and well and the wind turns to your back soon and speeds your progress.

best wishes



Adventure! Geology! History! Geography! We armchair followers are much richer for Freya’s experience thanks to the many and varied experts taking the time to make this adventure real for us. Thank you all.

Kerry Parslow

If anyone is interested in more geologic trivia about the fault ridge of which the Zuytdorp Cliffs are a part, the line goes all the way to Perth, is 1000km total and is called the Darling Scarp. The flat plain that runs east from the cliff’s edge, well into the continent interior, is called the Yilgan Plateau and contains perhaps the oldest minerals ever dated on the planet at 4.2 billion years! The fault that causes the Darling is one those unusual ones that occurs mid-plate, rather at the boundaries we are most familiar with (like the Pacific Ring of Fire). It’s evidently a relic of the enormous crustal tensions that occurred when Antartica, Australia and the chunk that was to migrate north and become India all separated from the ancient supercontinent we call Gondwanaland. Guess you could call it a “stretch mark” in the terrestrial skin.

And Australia is still moving north but only at about 1 cm per year — not enough to noticably shorten Freya’s paddle distance south. But if she could have just sculled in place off Zuytdorp Point for 17,000,000 years, Kalbarri would have come to her! (Maybe thinking of that will make her 2 or 3 day traverse of this leg seem not quite so bad.)


I think Kerry’s comments are spot on…I found it interesting that the cliffs took their name from the ship that went down there 3 centuries ago when the Dutch East India Company’s Zuytdorp came to a shuddering halt on Western Australia’s remote Murchison coast between Kalbarri and Shark Bay, possibly sometime in June 1712. We can’t say for sure, because the precise circumstances of the wreck event remain a mystery. Unlike the four other Dutch and English East India Company vessels known to have sailed too far east and come to grief on the WA coast, no survivors from the Zuytdorp reached Java (Indonesia) to tell the tale.

In 1954, a geologist, Phillip Playford, was undertaking geological survey work in the coastal area south of Shark Bay when he met up with Tom Pepper, a stockman who’d worked on the region for years. Pepper told Playford that years before, in 1927, he’d found silver coins and other artifacts at an old camp site at the top of the cliffs. On seeing the coins, Playford was intrigued and set about trying to establish where they’d come from and how’d they’d got there. They were Dutch and the key proved to be a date found on some of the coins – 1711. It was the only mint of that year that went out on two ships. One of them never got to Java – the Zuytdorp.

Having established that the coins could only have come from the Zuytdorp, the next challenge was to find the wreck itself. Geraldton’s Tom Brady and the Cramer brothers were the first to dive at the foot of the cliff upon which Tom Pepper had first found the coins. There beneath the waves were the remnants of the long-lost ship – pieces of hull, cannon and anchors. On a later dive, before the WA Museum became officially involved, they were amazed to see what amounted to a ‘carpet of silver’, thousands of silver coins in an area of several square metres. News of this soon spread and other divers headed for the site, including the controversial Alan Robinson who had a history of using gelignite on wreck sites.

The WA Museum decided to install a watchman to prevent looters from making off with the coins and other artefacts. He lived in a caravan at the top of the cliffs and called the museum’s base twice-daily. On a day when he had to go off to the nearest town, his caravan was fire-bombed. The museum quickly determined that it was far too dangerous a situation for the watchman to remain and surveillance was stopped. What followed was a five-year lull in the museum’s diving activity. During this time, the ‘carpet of silver’ appears to have disappeared. Phil Playford explains, “It’s one of the remaining major mysteries of the Zuytdorp – who looted the treasure and does it still exist? The arsonist who burnt the caravan is almost certainly also the person who looted the wreck.”

The central puzzle of the Zuytdorp is the question of whether or not there were survivors. If so, what happened to them? The evidence would appear to suggest that at least some of the crew did escape the wreck, and that local Aboriginal people may have helped them to survive. Is it possible that they lived among them, intermarried and produced offspring?

Solving the puzzles associated with the Zuytdorp continues to be one of the most absorbing detective stories in Australian maritime archaeology. All sorts of experts have been – and are – involved, including anthropologists and geneticists. Phillip Playford’s award-wining book Carpet of Silver – The Wreck of the Zuytdorp (UWA Press) provides a rich and rewarding account of the story to date.

Kerry Parslow

Actually, the cliffs are a fault scarp, a ruptured vertical displacement along one of the plates that make up the earth’s crust (kind of like when your driveway pavement cracks and one side heaves up.) They are thought to be of fairly recent origin in geologic time, perhaps only 5,000 years, which is why they are so uniformly contuinuous, steep and raw. The sea and wind haven’t had time to soften them yet.

Though this section is only a fraction of the distance of the marathon “no landings” paddle Freya accomplished across the Gulf of Carpenteria, the conditions are apt to be much more challenging and exhausting on this leg due to the heavy seas and wind directions.

We all have confidence in her skill, stamina and determination. Just hope she’s able to beat the sea-sickness, mentally if not physically. Knowing she’s nearly half way to Kalbarri and was able to take a break to transmit the report is excellent news.

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