Sydney’s coastal rock platforms are a sensitive indicator of coastal zone environmental health. Despite successive waves of settlers pillaging this zone over the past 220 years low tides often reveal startling environmental richness and diversity remaining just beyond the easy grasp of human predators.
This summer solstice the full moon brought extremely low tides to coastal Sydney, similar conditions prevailed on the full moon of the winter solstice. For me these are particularly beautiful times.
Swimming at Giles baths today, that’s the bogey hole at the northern end of Coogee beach, conditions on the low tide were ideal. Here amongst the steady stream tourists, kids from Sydney’s inner west and the usual mixture of mixture of locals and former locals, such as myself, I enjoyed a reflective half hour. It’s not an ideal place for lap swimming, it’s uneven and bottom and variable depth make it more of a place for relaxation and exploration.
Said to be a men’s place in traditional Aboriginal culture, it has several flat straight edged boulders lying on the bottom. At low tide these make excellent seats. I like to take up a position and just soak though the cooler ocean temperatures of recent weeks have made long relaxing session more challenging.
Leaning forward and stilling the water’s movement with my hands, I can gazed down into the rock pool and watching countless small fish, mainly mado and weed whiting with the occasional small toad fish, swimming around my legs. Further down Sea urchins were just visible beneath overhanging rocks.
Sitting at water level and scanning the surrounding rocks revealed more sedentary inter-tidal life; Cunjevoi and seas squirts around the lower low tidal zone then barnacles, limpets and finally dense communities of blue periwinkles clustered together in a long wait for the next king tide. In the stillness of the sheltered bogey hole there was little apparent activity on the rocks save the occasional Cunjevoi squirt and timid rock crabs scurrying along moist crevices.
Sometimes small stingrays find there way into the pool, but today there was an altogether different attraction. A small pied cormorant was busily fishing amongst bathers. Apparently oblivious to the comings and goings of people it dived repeatedly, sometimes surfacing to swallow a mado, before diving again for more. When it had its fill it simply swam to as large rock, scampered up, stretched out its wings, shook of the excess moisture and after a few minutes in the sun, flew off to some other place.
For more on Sydney’s coastal zone visit Ricks Underwater Blog.