Yesterday morning (Saturday 3rd June 2017) I decided at late notice to head down to the Coorong region to activate three parks: Martin Washpool Conservation Park, Messent Conservation Park, and Bunbury Conservation Reserve. I had activated both Martin Washpool and Messent previously, but this was prior to them being included in the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. Those activations were exclusively for the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award. And I had never activated Bunbury, so these were to be three unique parks for me for WWFF.
My first park was to be Martin Washpool Conservation Park 5CP-129 & VKFF-0907 which is located about 209 km south east of Adelaide.
Martin Washpool Conservation Park is located in very close proximity to the little settlement of Salt Creek, on the Princes Highway. The Coorong National Park and the Messent Conservation Park are located very close by to Martin Washpool.
The park is 1,900 hectares in size and comprises swampy Melaleuca flats. The park boundaries were altered in 2005, with various sections of Crown Land being added to the park.
The park is named after Malachi Martin, who was a convicted murderer. It was so named after the pool in which he washed the blood from himself after committing murder.
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.
To get to the park I travelled down the South Eastern Freeway until I reached Tailem Bend, where I turned right onto the Princes Highway and started heading south, passing the Mowantjie Willauwar Conservation Park. I soon reached the town of Meningie on the shore of Lake Albert, where I stopped for some early lunch at the bakery.
Meningie was surveyed in 1866 and currently has a population of around 1,000. Meningie is local aboriginal language, meaning ‘mud’.
Whilst enjoying my sausage rolls I strolled through the park on the shores of Lake Albert. There are a few interesting things to have a look at here, including the statue and intepretive sign for the Birdman of the Coorong. John Francis Peggotty was born in County Limerick in 1864. He was born premature and as a result only ever grew to the size of a 7 year old boy. During his youth, he exploited his stature, climbing down the chimneys of wealthy Londoners, robbing them of their jewellery. He emigrated to Australia in 1890 and continued his criminal career in the Coorong region. He rode on the back of an ostrich, one of many that had been set free when the market for fashionable ostrich feathers ceased. As a result he became known as the Birdman of the Coorong. Peggotty met his death in 1899, having remained at large for a number of years. He was shot dead whilst trying to Rob a local fisherman, Henry Carmichael.
A little further along the foreshore is a monument to commemorate the death of 8 personnel from 6 Service Flying Training School RAAF on 4th August 1942 when their Avro Ansons collided and crashed into Lake Albert.
I then left Meningie and continued along the Princes Highway, passing the sensational Coorong on my right. The Coorong is a 130 km stretch of saltwater lagoons protected from the Southern Ocean by sweeping sand dunes. The Coorong is also a wetland of international importance, supporting many significant and endangered flora and fauna.
About 60 km out of Meningie I reached the little settlement of Salt Creek. There isn’t much here. Don’t blink as you will miss it. Just a small general store and a few houses. What is worth stopping to have a look at in Salt Creek is the replica drill. In 1852 a police escort bringing a consignment of gold from the Victorian diggings came upon a rubbery bituminous material in the low-lying area to the north of the Coorong known then as Alfred Flat, adjacent to a freshwater lake. The coorongite was presumed to be from the dried oil seepages and the belief that there must be underground reserves of il resulted in considerable activity by oil speculators and entrepreneurs from the 1860’s through to the 1930’s.
I drove to the end of Salt Creek Road and the north eastern corner of the park. Although maps show that Salt Creek Road continues to the east, it does not. There is a gate here which leads into private property. There is however another gate, which is unlocked, which leads into the park and follows the eastern boundary. I set up just inside the gate.
I headed to 7.144 and asked if the frequency was in use and was told that the frequency was occupied. So I headed to 7.139 and again asked if the frequency was in use. Rob VK4AAC/p came back to let me know he was on the frequency. We worked each other, with Rob being portable in the Solitary Islands Marine Park VKFF-1411.
I then moved down to 7.134 and started calling CQ, which was answered by Jonathan VK7JON who was mobile on his way to the Mount William National Park. I then logged Jonathan’s wife, Helen VK7FOLK/m, followed by Dennis VK2HHA, and then Peter VK3PF. Four QSOs later I had another Park to Park in the log, this time it was Neil VK4HNS/p who was in the Tingalpa Creek Conservation Park VKFF-1660.
Band conditions seemed to be down a bit, with signals being quite poor at times into the eastern States. Local propagation was virtually non existant, with only two South Australian stations worked, my wife Marija VK5FMAZ at Mount Barker about 150 km from the park, and Greg VK5GJ at Meadows.
About 45 minutes into the activation I logged Helen VK7FOLK/p and Jonathan VK7JON/ who were now in the Mount William National Park VKFF-0366. After logging a total of 27 stations on 40m, I headed to the 80m band. I was seriously believing I was not going to be able to get the required 44 contacts to qualify the park for WWFF.
I called CQ on 3.610 and this was answered by Marija VK5FMAZ, followed by Mick VK3GGG/VK3PMG who was an excellent 5/9 from western Victoria. It is amazing what the 80m band can do in the middle of the day. I then logged Peter VK5PET who was booming in from Strathalbyn, followed by Peter VK3PF, Ken VK2KYO and Terry VK5ATN in the Mid North who was also very strong. I logged a total of 11 stations on 80m from VK2, VK3, and VK5.
I then tried my luck on the 20m band, calling CQ on 14.310. My first caller there was RK3SWB in Russia, followed by Fred VK4FE and then Gerard VK2IO. Signals from VK2 and VK4 were way down, and sadly RK3SWB was my only DX logged.
I now had 44 QSOs in the log, with contact number 44 being Cliff VK2NP. To finish off the activaion I headed back to 7.134 on 40m where I logged a further 9 stations, including a Park to Park with Peter VK3ZPF/p who was activating the Bunyip State Park VKFF-0753.
It was now just after 2.00 p.m. local time and I had a total of 53 stations in the log. I still had 2 park activations to undertake, so I packed up and headed off to the Messent Conservation Park.
During my activation I was set up alongside various native trees which were in flower and absolutely alive with Wattlebirds and Honeyeaters.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK4AAC/p (Solitary Islands Marine Park VKFF-1411)
- VK4HNS/p (Tingalpa Creek Conservation Park VKFF-1660)
- VK7FOLK/p (Mount William National Park VKFF-0366)
- VK7JON/p (Mount William National Park VKFF-0366)
- VK3ZPF/p (Bunyip State Park VKFF-0753)
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-
Australia@War, 2017, <http://www.ozatwar.com/ozcrashes/sa04.htm>, viewed 4th June 2017
National Parks South Australia, 2017, <https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Limestone_Coast/coorong-national-park>, viewed 4th June 2017