The Martin Washpool Conservation Park was my first activation of my 6 day trip. I left home early on Thursday morning, 5th September, 2013, and drove south east along the Princes Highway following the sensational Coorong National Park. The weather did not look flash, with light showers and threatening black clouds. You wouldn’t credit ‘Murphy‘. The weather had been warm and sunny for a week prior to this. Upon entering the little township of Salt Creek, I turned left onto Salt Creek Road. There is a replica oil rig on the corner.
In 1892, a group of entrepreneurs, who believed there was oil located in the Coorong, drilled Australia’s first oil well. They were unsuccessful, as it was later discovered that the ‘oil’ was in fact a flammable, compacted vegetable substance (known as ‘coorongite’). A replica of the oil rig has been built as a monument to this enterprise.
I travelled east passed farming land initially and then the park to my right. As I travelled along the dirt road I saw a number of emus who quickly scrambled off into the scrub when seeing and hearing the car.
I continued on until reaching a T-junction. To your right is the entrance to Martin Washpool CP. To your left is a track which takes you to the nearby Messent CP. And in front there is a gate for a property called ‘Currawong’ which clearly states that it is private property and that there is no access to National Parks.
Immediately to your right is the entrance to Martin Washpool CP. There is an unlocked gate and a large rainwater tank at the entrance to the park. A very sandy fire track continues to run down to the south east following the fenceline, on the north eastern border of the park. This looked way too sandy for my Ford Falcon, so I parked the car just inside the park near the rain water tank, and set up my gear here. I didn’t fancy getting bogged on my very first activation !
Martin Washpool CP is 1,900 hectares in size with swampy Melaleuca flats. In 2005, the park boundaries were altered, and various sections of Crown land were added to the park. The park is typical open mallee with with swampy Melaleuca flats. The gum trees and wattle were out in flower and were putting on a spectacular show. There were plenty of honeyeaters and wattle birds active in the trees.
Wildlife within the park includes Western Grey Kangaroos, the endangered Mallee Fowl, Emus, wombats, Shinglebacks and Bearded Dragons. Feral deer also populate the park.
Within the park there is a central lake/lagoon of water. This is located on the south western side of the park. It is fed by some small tributaries, and eventually flows into the Coorong.
The park has an interesting history. It was named after Malachi Martin, also known as Malacky Martin, who was a convicted murderer who lived in South Australia during the 1800’s. Martin grew up around the Willunga district, south of Adelaide and as a teenager, was charged with theft while working at a post office at Encounter Bay. He was tried at Adelaide but found not guilty. Six days later, his mother died in strange circumstances by drowning in a pond near the family farm. The inquest into her death declared that she had committed suicide, and it was believed that she was deeply affected by her son’s criminal trial. Her death was made even more tragic because she was heavily pregnant at the time.
A few years later, Martin moved to his father’s new pastoral lease near the Coorong. Martin also worked as a mail coach driver from Encounter Bay to Kingston SE and Naracoorte. At the time this was the only main roady from Adelaide to Melbourne. While living in the area, he became friends with William and Catherine “Nellie” Robinson, who ran an inn, the Traveller’s Rest at Salt Creek. It was later believed that Catherine and Martin were having an affair which was to have fatal consequences. On 14 June 1856, William Robinson’s body was discovered with his throat cut. Martin was a suspect, but was never charged with his murder. Several weeks later, he moved to Sydney for two years before returning to South Australia and marrying Catherine on 23 June 1858.
During his two-year absence, a young woman named Jane Macmanamin came to work for Catherine as a servant. In 1862 she went missing from Salt Creek and Martin stated she had moved away on a whim to the Mount Gambier area in the colony’s south east. In April 1862, Jane’s sister, who had constantly stayed in contact with her, sent a letter to the police in Adelaide, suspicious that she had not heard from Jane in some time. After an investigation and thorough search, Jane’s body was discovered in May 1862, half concealed in a wombat hole at Salt Creek, not far from the Traveller’s Rest.
In June 1862, Martin was charged with the murder of Jane Macmanamin. Another man, William Wilsen, who claimed he had been engaged to her, was charged with being an accessory after the fact. Martin was tried and found guilty. He was hanged at the Adelaide Gaol on 24 December 1862 (Christmas Eve). He is buried between the walls within the gaol. Wilsen was found guilty of assisting Martin after the murder and sentenced to four years hard labour. He was deported to Tasmania to carry out his sentence.
As well as the two murders which were attributed to Martin, there was also suspicion as to the disappearances of two men from the Salt Creek area in 1859. A traveller found a damaged rosewood jeweller’s box approximately two and half miles from Salt Creek. On inspection, it contained a piece of linen with the name “G. F. King” written on one of the corners. It was suggested by Edward Bright, a contemporary diarist that a man named Harry Kirby and a jeweller stayed at the Traveller’s Rest and subsequently disappeared.
The police also investigated reports from local aboriginals that Martin had murdered an aboriginal teenager who he had had an altercation with. Sometime after the boy’s suspicious disappearance, a group of aboriginal people were bathing in a deep water hole near Salt Creek. They found the boy’s body in a bag, weighted down by a large stone. This incident occurred sometime in late 1859 or early 1860, but the police were unable to find any witnesses who had actually found the body, only people who had heard the story from others.
It is after Malachi Martin, that Martin’s Washpool Conservation park was named. It was so named after the pool in which he washed the blood from himself after committing murder. A macarbe but very interesting history of the park.
I used the park sign to secure the 7m squid pole and rested the Yaesu FT-817nd up on the permapine log. My first contact was with Larry VK5LY who was portable in the Bakara Conservation Park near Swan Reach. A good start…a Park to Park contact. Larry had a very nice 5/8 signal.
The showers held off just long enough for me to male 8 contacts on 40m SSB, with conditions being excellent. Considering it was a Thursday morning, I was happy with the 8 QSO’s, all of which were VK5’s, other than regular ‘Hunter’ Ron VK3AFW.
The following stations were worked:- Larry VK5LY/p; Col VK5HCF; Brian VK5FMID; Ron VK3AFW; Simon VK5VST; Mick VK5FMMC; Dale VK5DC; Brendan VK5FBFB.