Day eight and the Merbein South Flora Reserve VKFF-2382

Today, day eight (Tuesday 13th April 2021) we planned on an entire day of sightseeing, and no park activating. As it turned out, we did slip in one quick park activation which you can read about a little later in this blog.

After breakfast we headed across the Murray River into New South Wales and visited the Mildura Holden Motor Museum at Buronga. We spent quite some time here admiring all of the magnificent Holden motor vehicles. It brought back a lot of memories. The museum houses a private collection of Holdens dating way back to the very first 48-215 (FJ) to the recent model Monaro and Statesman.

The museum’s website tells the very interesting story behind the collection. About 35 years ago, the owner of the now Mildura Holden Motor Museum, Ron Morello, ran an earthmoving business. He was called upon to clear his neighbour’s land and prepare the land for construction. He was ordered that ‘everything must go’. A storage shelter was crushed which contained a ‘pristine’ FX Holden.

In 1975, after realising what he had done, Ron started looking for an FX to buy. In January 1981 he purchased an original FX Holden with only 42,000 miles on the clock.

We then visited Orange World at Buronga which is a working 50 acre citrus property. We took a tractor train tour of the orchards and a commentary on the citrus industry. Fruit grown at Orange World includes various types of oranges, mandarin, grapefruit and avocados.

Orange World makes its own gourmet products including Murray marmalade which we purchased and can highly recommend.

We then headed to the town of Wentworth in New South Wales and visited the old Wenworth Gaol which is a heritage listed former gaol and school building. The gaol was designed by colonial architect James Barnet and was constructed from 1879 to 1881 by Whitcombe Brothers, Hay. It was the first of the Australian designed gaols, followed by Hay and Dubbo.

The gaol operated until 1927. Following its closure as a gaol, the building was utilised as extra classrooms for the Wentworth Central School until 1963.

There is a lot to see here, with many excellent displays, and we spent a number of hours wandering through the old gaol buildings.

We then had a look at the Ferguson Tractor Monument in Wentworth. The monument was erected by the people of Wentworth in honour of the TEA20 Harry Ferguson tractors’ part in the construction of the massive levee banks that protected the town of Wentworth against the devastating 1956 Murray River floods.

The stone cairn sits at the height which the water from the floods would have reached had it not been for the clay levee banks put in place with the use of the Ferguson tractors.

Next up we visited the Wentworth wharf and the Captain John Egge statue. Captain Egge was a Wentworth river captain and pioneer who lived from 1830 to 1901. He had arrived in Australia as a boy from China. He worked as a baker in Wentworth from 1857 for over three decades as a baker, river trader and riverboat owner.

In the early days Wentworth was the busiest inland port in New South Wales. During 1890 it was reported that some 425 paddle boats checked in at the Wentworth Customs Office. The record being 31 in just one wek. So prominent did the town become, that Wentworth was one of the last three places considered for the ‘capital’ of Australia at the time of Federation in 1901.

We then drove to the Murray River and Darling River junction and viewing tower. We climbed the tower and admired the view of the confluence of the Murray and Darling, which combined is the fourth largest river system in the world.

We then drove a short distance to have a look at Lock and Weir number 10 at Wentworth. The lock is 830 km from the river mouth and is 30.8 metres above sea level. Construction of the lock was completed in 1929.

We then drove out to Perry Sandhills, a very distinctive landmark in the flat floodplain behind the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. The sands originated in the river beds at a time when the rivers were much deeper and faster, and carried a sandy bedload rather than suspended clay as today. When the river flows dropped, sand from the exposed riverbeds was blown into river-side dunes, known as source-bordering dunes. The lunettes a Lake Mungo are also source-bordering dunes.

The dunes have not been directly dated, but they are at least 50,000 years old given the presence of fossils of giant extinct animals, the megafauna. The older layers could be over 100,000 years, dating back prior to the last ice age.

We headed back into Wentworth and had a look at McClymont House, a Murray Pine ‘drop log construction’ building which was built as Wentworth’s first court house in 1863. In 1879 it was replaced by the present structure. Later it became part of the Andrew McClymont home which was moved to this site in 1972 to enhance is preservation.

Nearby we also viewed the Tractor monument, which is to acknowledge all tractor rallies held in Wentworth to commemorate the 1956 Murray River flood and the role the Massey Ferguson tractor ‘Fergie’ plated in saving the town.

In the same park is a statue of ‘The Possum’. David James Jones (1901-1982) was a bush recluse who was born in New Zealand. He was shunned while attempting to get work around the Wentworth area as a shearer. As a result he shunned his back on society and headed for the bush and became a recluse. He was only ever seen by members of the public a few times in the next 52 years before his death.

The Possum’s body was found in 1982 at one of his camp sites on Ned’s Corner Station, about 70km west of Mildura. He was 81 years old.

We also had a look at the P.S. Ruby, which is a historic Paddle Steamer built at Morgan in South Australia by David Milne in 1907 for use by Captain Hugh King. The Ruby carried 30 passengers in style and comfort with three decks.

During the early 1930’s Ruby was taken off the run and was tied up at her home port of Morgan. In 1938 she was purchased and brought to Mildura and used as a houseboat. By 1968 the Ruby had deteriorated substantially and was purchased by the Wentworth Rotary Club and was towed to Wentworth.

In 1996 the Wentworth Rotary Club placed the Ruby into the trusteeship of the Wentworth Shire Council.  Restoration then commenced and in July 2004 the Ruby was re-commissioned.

Nearby there is also an excellent display of old tractors, machinery, and various other old equipment.

Our next stop was Junction Island Nature Reserve near the junction of the Murray and the Darling. We had hoped to do some birdwatching here, but the small pedestrian bridge to the island was closed. We viewed the old Canoe tree which was made many ??? years ago by local aboriginals.

To make the canoe, the first step the aborigines took was to make an outline of the shape of the canoe they required with cutting stones or stone tools. Once this was marked, they cut deeply into the tree to what is known as the heartwood or xylem, prying the bark off in one piece with a stick or rocks.

Feeling very disappointed that the Junction Island Nature Refuge was closed, we headed to the second option, the Thegoa Lagoon & Reserve drive. This is 4WD only with a number of marked features including canoe trees. Thegoa Lagoon was a great source of ‘bush tucker’ for aboriginals including plants like nardoo, cumbungi, and ruby salt bush, as well as kangaroos, lizards, yabbies, mussels and fish.

Unfortunately the Thegoa Lagoon was dry and bird watching opportunities were very limited. Thegoa Lagoon is an ephemeral (non-permanent) freshwater wetland having wet and dry cycles. Thegoa is believed to be an aboriginal word. The area was surveyed by Government Surveyor Francis McCabe and he first recorded the name Thegoa in 1850. He employed aboriginal people in order to follow the instructions of Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell to record aboriginal place names wherever possible.

The only birds that we saw which were prevalent were White winged Choughs.

We then left Thegoa Lagoon and took some 4WD tracks which followed the Murray River, stopping every now and again to enjoy the views.

We then took the Silver City Highway and stopped briefly in the little town of Curlwaa. The town takes its name from an aboriginal word meaning native peach, the Quandong tree which is indigenous to the area.

There is a small monument here to commemorate the famous explorer Major Mitchell who camped in the area in 1836 after confirming Captain Charles Sturt’s discovery of the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers.

There is also a monument re the 1956 floods. It reads:-

“Erected by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission to commemorate the epic struggle of local residents, volunteers from surrounding districts, detachments of the armed forces and Police Department, supported by Ladies organizations against the waters of the record floos of July and August 1956. By their efforts the Curlwaa irrigation area was saved from complete inundation by the flood waters which reached and held for six consecutive days a height of 30 feet on the Curlwaa gauge’.

We then crossed over Abbortsford Bridge, over the mighty Murray River and back into the State of Victoria. We decided to do a quick activation of the Merbein South Flora Reserve VKFF-2382, from the vehicle.

We had been ‘warned’ about this little flora reserve which apparently was not the prettiest of parks.

Above:- Map showing the location of the Merbein South Flora Reserve. Map c/o Protected Planet.

Merbein South Flora Reserve is a tiny park, just 0.02 km² in size. It was established in 1990. It can be reached via Midgey Road which runs off McCarthy’s Road.

Above:- Aerial view of the Merbein South Flora Reserve. Image c/o Protected Planet.

The park is signposted and was quite easy to find once we consulted a map. The park takes its name from the town of Merbein. The settlement in the area was originally known as White Cliffs due to the white cliffs of the nearby Murray River. It was intended to be renamed “Merebin”, reputedly an Aboriginal name of a local sandhill, but it was mistakenly registered as “Merbein” instead.

It was late by the time we reached the park and we did not set up the portable gear, but rather, operated from the vehicle.

First in the log was Hans VK6XN who was activating the Blackwood River National Park VKFF-2949. Marija and I both logged Hans for a Park to Park contact.

We then moved down to 7.160 and I called CQ. This was answered by Brett VK2BDS, followed by Mark VK4SMA, and then Brian VK3BBB. After 5 minutes I had contact number 10 in the log, a QSO with Greg VK4/NN3Z.

I then swapped the mic with Marija and she soon had 10 contacts in the log, qualifying the park for VKFF. Contact number 10 was with Daryl VK3AWA.

Marija then handed me back the mic to see how many contacts I could log before we had to head back into Mildura. We did not want to miss out on a meal. I logged a total of 30 stations on 40m from VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, and New Zealand. This included a Park to Park QSO with Tony VK3XV/p who was activating the Bass River Mouth Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2949.

To complete the activation we quickly ducked down to the 80m band to log our good friend Ivan VK5HS who was unable to hear us on the 40m band.

With 31 contacts in the log for me, and 11 for Marija, we headed off for our evening meal.

Marija worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK6XN/p (Blackwood River National Park VKFF-2949)
  2. VK4BXX
  3. VK4/NN3Z
  4. VK2PBC
  5. VK3PF
  6. VK4FDJL
  7. VK4SMA
  8. VK2ABS
  9. VK2PKT
  10. VK3AWA
  11. VK3YV/p (Bass River Mouth Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2181)

I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK6XN/p (Blackwood River National Park VKFF-2949)
  2. VK2BDS
  3. VK4SMA
  4. VK3BBB
  5. VK2CCP
  6. VK4KC
  7. VK4MAD
  8. VK4DOG
  9. VK4BXX
  10. VK4/NN3Z
  11. VK3AWA
  12. VK3YV/p (Bass River Mouth Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2181)
  13. ZL4NVW
  14. ZL1THH
  15. VK2PBC
  16. VK2YK
  17. VK5GA
  18. VK4HNS
  19. VK2PKT
  20. VK2QM
  21. VK3NCR
  22. VK2IO
  23. VK5SCR
  24. VK2GMC
  25. VK3ZK
  26. VK3ANL
  27. VK3MPR
  28. VK3ARH
  29. VK3ZPF
  30. VK6JK

I worked the following station on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5HS

We headed back to our apartment and freshened up and headed out for dinner at the Seoul Korean restaurant in Mildura. What a sensational meal!

References.

  1. Discover Murray, 2021, <http://www.murrayriver.com.au/curlwaa>, viewed 8th May 2021
  2. Mildura Holden Motor Museum, 2021, <https://milduraholdenmuseum.com.au/our-history/>, viewed 8th May 2021.
  3. Orange World, 2021, <https://www.orangeworldmildura.com.au/about.html>, viewed 8th May 2021.
  4. Sunraysia Daily, 2021, <https://www.sunraysiadaily.com.au/your-100-years/1586742/possum-dies>, viewed 8th May 2021.
  5. Visit Wentworth, 2021, <https://visitwentworth.com.au/business/old-wentworth-gaol/>, viewed 8th May 2021.
  6. Visit Wentworth, 2021, <https://visitwentworth.com.au/attractions/ferguson-tractor-monument/>, viewed 8th May 2021.
  7. Visit Wentworth, 2021, <https://visitwentworth.com.au/attractions/darling-and-murray-river-junction-and-viewing-tower/>, viewed 8th May 2021.
  8. Visit Wentworth, 2021, <https://visitwentworth.com.au/attractions/junction-island-nature-reserve-canoe-tree-and-walking-track/>, viewed 8th May 2021.
  9. Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wentworth_Gaol>, viewed 8th May 2021.
  10. WIkipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merbein>, viewed 8th May 2021

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