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  • Expeditions & Adventures

    Posted by Will

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    epoch, seal, penguin, antarctica, spindrift, kayak, geoff murray

    BGLE 80th Anniversary Sea Kayak Expedition Antarctica 2017. By Geoff Murray

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    Expeditions & Adventures

    Our expedition was called the BGLE 80th Anniversary Sea Kayak Expedition Antarctica 2017. BGLE stands for British Graham Land Expedition. This expedition took place in 1934-37 and was led by Australian John Rymill. The expedition performed valuable scientific and exploratory work in this relatively unknown region with the northern base being on Argentine Island which was our expedition’s final destination.

    Rymill was also the surrogate leader of a previous expedition in East Greenland in 1932 whose aim was to investigate the possibility of establishing a transcontinental air route between England and Canada. They were sponsored for this expedition by PanAm airlines. 
    The Greenland expedition was based in Tugtilik (also known as Lake Fjord) which is 100kms north of the nearest tiny settlement of Sermiligaq pop. 230. Sermiligaq is in itself a very remote location and Tugtilik is extremely remote. Rymill had to take control of the expedition after its leader, Gino Watkins, died in a hunting accident very shortly after reaching Tugtilik.

    Camp at Wordie House, Winter Island, Antarctica, 2017 by Geoff Murray

    I paddled to Tugtilik with a small group in 2016 and we became only the 4th kayaking expedition to reach this location in the last 84 years. Hence, there was a tangible link between my East Greenland expedition and this latest Antarctic expedition.

    Humpback Whale, Antarctica 2017, by Geoff Murray

     

    "... a stunning yet at the same time, deadly coastline. Landing places are few and far between with huge, unstable ice cliffs or vertical rock faces between."

    The distance between the start point, Enterprise Island, and Argentine Island was 300km and this involved paddling a stunning yet at the same time, deadly coastline. Landing places are few and far between with huge, unstable ice cliffs or vertical rock faces between. Icebergs are an ever present threat as they can capsize without warning and glacier faces can be equally unstable, calving spontaneously. Likewise the weather was a serious consideration, with the possibility of violent katabatic winds always in the background (as we found out one day!)

    But the rewards were immense, as we sighted whales, seals and penguins in one of Earth’s most spectacular locations as we paddled the Antarctic coastline.

    Fur Seal, Antarctica 2017, by Geoff Murray

    I took a new Mont Epoch tent with me, slept in a Mont Spindrift sleeping bag and kept warm during the day wearing Mont Polartec Power Stretch Pro fleece under my Icicle jacket. This stuff works and I was not once cold.

    A wonderful trip to an awesome location!

    Geoff Murray
    Mont Ambassador, wilderness and landscape photographer, explorer

    Goeff Murray, Antarctica 2017

    Emma Island Camp, Antarctica 2017, by Geoff Murray

    Winter Island Camp, Antarctica 2017, by Geoff Murray

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  • Expeditions & Adventures

    Posted by Will

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    TAGS

    epoch tent, tasmania, kayak, geoff murray, mont ambassador

    Stanley to Wynyard with Geoff Murray

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    Expeditions & Adventures

    Continuing my paddle across the northern Tasmanian coastline, I drove up to Stanley in NW Tas and left my car in a safe spot in pleasant sun and little wind. It was low tide in Stanley and it seemed like miles to the water. I always carry a trolley on solo paddles and it is absolutely invaluable for situations such as this.
    I had timed the paddle to match the flood tide to speed me on my way but it didn’t work out quite that way…

    Mont Ambassador Geoff Murray

    Leaving Stanley and aiming for the kilometre long jetty at Port Latta, it wasn’t long before I was out of the wind shadow of the land to the west of me. I raised my sail and made good time with a steady 15-20 knots from the WSW. By the time I was nearing the jetty, I decided it was time to drop the sail. Conditions on the water were much worse than they should have been for the amount of wind that was blowing. It was then that I realised that even though it was a flood tide with the stream heading east, there must be a large eddy in Sawyer bay and I was paddling in wind over tide conditions. Bouncy!
     

    A highlight of the day was an Albatross that flew in and landed close to me. It just sat there on the water watching me paddle by and I had the distinct feeling it was a friendly meeting.

    I had intended to continue across the bay to Rocky Cape, round the Cape and land a few kilometres further on but as I neared the Cape it became lumpier and lumpier with an underlying swell sneaking in from the West just to add to the overall confusion of the water I was on. There was a beach on the western side of Rocky Cape with a bunch of shacks lining the shore. I decided a landing at the beach would be a better option than paddling around the Cape in worsening conditions. Working my way towards the beach, I was contemplating what the landing would be like with a definite possibility of a crash landing but luckily the wave heights eased as I made the final run onto the sand of Rocky Cape Beach.

    Mont Ambassador Geoff Murray

    Somewhat relieved, I unpacked my trolley and dragged the kayak up to a nice little grassy patch in a sheltered spot hoping that the shack residents wouldn’t mind this new “blow in”.

    Mont Ambassador Geoff Murray with his Mont Epoch Tent

    First things first, get changed into dry clothes and get the camp set up. I put my Mont Epoch Tent up, spread my mattress inside and unpacked my Mont Spindrift Sleeping Bag. Even though it has been very mild in Tas this winter there was still the possibility of a cold night so the Spindrift was my best option. This bag will cope with whatever Tassie throws at it.

    Then it was time for a walk out to the Rocky Cape light house for some evening views.

    The forecast was for easing winds so after a pleasant night in the tent, warm and cosy, I woke to almost flat water and a clear sky.

    Gear packed and kayak trolleyed to the water’s edge, I stepped into the kayak for the day’s paddle to Wynyard, 31km away.

    Rounding Rocky Cape I enjoyed watching a sea eagle moving from jagged outcrop to jagged outcrop following my progress. I paddled past the light house that I visited the day before and pointed my bow east in pleasant conditions. Nearing a medium sized island just past Sister’s Beach I was intending to paddle past the northern end of it but as I watched I saw a very large back broach in the water a few hundred metres in front of me. Ok, I thought, must a big dolphin. It will surface again shortly…..but it didn’t. Other possibilities, a whale, or a shark. Right then, the southern end of the island looks really good, let’s go that way.

    black-and-white

    Table Cape gradually loomed closer and finally I was paddling past it’s rugged and densely vegetated cliffs. Rounding the Cape, Wynyard came into view, only a few kilometres way.

    I landed just south of Wynyard at a business that had agreed to let me leave the kayak there while I bussed back to Stanley to retrieve my car. Another stretch of Tassie’s magnificent coastline done:-)

    Geoff Murray

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  • Expeditions & Adventures

    Posted by Will

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    TAGS

    epoch tent, tasmania, kayak, geoff murray, mont ambassador

    Continuing Around Tassie with Geoff Murray

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    Expeditions & Adventures

    After watching continuous wind and fronts passing across Tassie for several weeks, I finally spotted a weather window that would allow me to continue my Tasmanian paddle from the far NW tip, Woolnorth Point, across the North coast, down the East coast and into Hobart.

    I am chipping away at the paddle, just doing a section as weather and time allow.

    I drove up to Wynyard where I left my car and started off east in fine and sunny weather. I had all of the usual gear packed, including my ever faithful Mont Epoch tent and Mont Spindrift sleeping bag, along with an assortment of Mont warm and useful clothing. The coastline in Tassie’s central North isn’t so much spectacular as pleasant but it does have an amazing number of jagged and kayak destroying fangs of rock all along the coastline so vigilance is essential.

    The first night’s camp was at Sulphur Creek, a nice grassy spot with even a table and benches! But boy, getting the kayak up across the beach on my trolley was tough!

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador at Sulphur Creek

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador at Sulphur Creek

    The next day was another fine and sunny day, and I loaded the kayak with my gear and headed off again, this time ending the day’s paddle at Turner’s Beach. A nice, secluded spot, with more tables and chairs, and toilets!

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador at Turner's Beach

    Only a short paddle into Devonport the next morning but the wind had picked up a bit overnight, and so had the waves. A little more concentration as 1.5m waves regularly came through but it wasn’t long before I was bouncing through the rebound off Mersey Bluff and altering course into the mouth of the Mersey River and landing at Devonport. A quick phone call to a mate and the kayak and gear was deposited at his place and I caught a bus back to Wynyard to retrieve my car.

    A couple of weeks later, I saw that there was a 2 day weather window in the NE so late Saturday night I had all of my gear loaded into the car and the kayak strapped on top.

    Bridport is a small fishing town which is also the departure point for the boat’s that carry passengers and freight to Flinders island. The town has character.

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador in Bridport

    I pushed off from Bridport heading East again in fine and reasonably calm conditions. Basically to-day’s paddle was a long beach paddle and I intended to camp at Croppies Beach then return to my car the following day.

    I landed part way along the beach through small surf for a bite to eat and a drink. The sun was shining, and life was good…… and my excellent Mont Paddle Hat kept me from getting sunburnt.

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador in Tassie

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador at Croppies Beach

    Back in the kayak again and around a small headland to Croppies Beach in rather dramatic light.

    Searching around I finally found a decent campsite for the night. Up with the tent again and in with the gear.

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador at Croppies Beach

    Time for a meal and I was warm and cosy in my Mont Slinx Top and El Gringo bottoms. These pieces of clothing are made from Polartec Power Stretch and they are unbelievably comfortable and warm. A Mont beanie on top and I was set!

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador at Croppies Beach

    The next morning the forecast was for rain and a moderate NE wind, but the weather forgot! So I had flat, oily smooth paddling back to Bridport. Amazing watching the waves slide past utterly silently.

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador paddling back to Bridport

    Mid afternoon, and I was back at Bridport. Time for a quick look at the Old Jetty and it was time to pack up and head for home. 180 kms done, 560 to go :-)

    Geoff Murray Mont Ambassador at Bridport old jetty

    Geoff Murray

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  • Expeditions & Adventures

    Posted by Will

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    TAGS

    epoch tent, tasmania, kayak, geoff murray, mont ambassador

    Kayaking the Tassie Coast. By Geoff Murray

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    Expeditions & Adventures

    Tassie's west coast has a real gem in the mighty Gordon River. This river, despite being harnessed further upstream to produce hydro electric power, still retains its magnificent regal character in its lower reaches. Flowing serenely for many kilometres, it finally empties into Macquarie Harbour, a large, shallow body of water roughly 34 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide at its widest point. The Gordon is renowned for its reflections, with cruise vessels taking tourists up the Gordon from Strahan several times daily.
    But to visit this river alone by kayak is far better :)

    Mont Ambassador Geoff Murray kayaking in Tasmania

    Leaving Strahan I headed south on Macquarie Harbour, straight into a headwind. 32km later I was still paddling into a headwind! The forecast didn't mention that.
    I landed on Sarah Island for a look at the convict ruins. Sarah Island was a major boatbuilding site during the days of penal settlement. It is sobering to think of the privations that these people suffered in this harsh climate.

    _DSC1257

    I left and found a quiet bay to erect my trusty Mont Epoch tent and settle down for a quiet night. The next morning I paddled the last few kilometres across Macquarie Harbour and slipped into the mouth of the Gordon. The tide was ebbing and there was a solid current to paddle against as I made my way upstream, the wind slowly died away until eventually I was paddling on a mirror, green with the reflections of the rainforest crowding down to the edge of the river. Sublime!

    Geoff Murray using the Mont Epoch on the Tassie coast

    A seal was working its way up and down the river, hunting for trout, snorting loudly as it surfaced. Then, as I drifted along during a rest, a platypus swam directly towards me, only realising that something strange was ahead of him when he was a mere 3 metres away. He dived with a plop!
    I eased past Heritage Landing where the tourist boats turn around, knowing that the best part of the river is further upstream.

    This time though, my destination was only a short 17 kilometres further upstream, Eagle Creek campsite. I arrived in the early afternoon and once again, set up camp in a beautiful, solitary and peaceful location.
    Another quiet night, I rose before dawn and watching the sun slowly finger it's way down across the treetops, bringing magical light onto a scene full of peace and calmness. The reflections were flawless as I quietly sat and are breakfast. A pretty good way to start the day.

    Mont Ambassador Geoff Murray kayaking in Tasmania

    Packing the kayak, I slipped back into the water and glided across the reflections, heading back downstream. The peacefulness was complete as I quietly paddled but it wasn’t long before I was back at the mouth of The Gordon with Sarah Island in the distance ahead.

    About 700 metres from Sarah is Grummett Island, a small rocky island capped with dense scrub that was used initially to house the women at the Sarah Island settlement. It was later used as a natural prison for the very worst convicts, sometimes as many as 60 on a very small island. Apparently murders were common….
    I had read that the women lived in a cave on the island. I searched until I found the entrance to the cave. A ½ metre wide entrance went back for about 5 metres before opening out into a 2 metre by 6 metre cave with a sloping floor. Not exactly home sweet home.

    Mont Ambassador Geoff Murray exploring Grummet Island Cave, Tasmania

    Leaving the island, I continued on to Double Bay on the western side of the Harbour, 38 kms from Eagle Creek. This is a very sheltered bay with a nice sandy beach. A good place to be. I could hear the waves pounding the west coast….10km away.

    Setting up camp was the first priority, then I sat back and enjoyed the solitude.
    That night was really warm, and I appreciated the brilliant ventilation of the Epoch. It has the best ventilation I have ever seen in a 4 season tent.

    Mont Ambassador Geoff Murray using the Mont Epoch tent on the Tassie Coast

    The 4th day was good weather again with the forecast indicating good sailing conditions for the run back to Strahan. 21km and some good sailing later, I landed back at the beach in Strahan.

    Another good trip!

    By Geoff Murray

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