From Portland, I drive out to the Cape Nelson Lighthouse.
First lit in 1884 and still operational today, I can see why it is needed. The Southern Ocean violently smashes the cliffs on this cape. Here Australia juts out into the ocean and seems to lure unsuspecting passing ships. The winds are so intense a wall protects those entering the small door at the lighthouse’s base.
I wasn’t expecting the strange topography, a weird lunar landscape of sharp limestone, bleached and eroded by saltwater and time. It has a sinister feel that the pounding waves below amplify.
Then I came across a solitary cairn erected to the memory of Alan William Barr lost at sea in 1970. No more information was given, just this lonely memorial in this desolate place.
I searched for information on Alan William Barr, who was he, how was he lost at sea? It wasn’t easy to find, but eventually, a March 1970 edition of the Canberra Times shed some light.
Alan Barr and his mate Paul Hill, two Portland lads, were abalone diving when a giant wave capsized their boat. It took them two hours fighting the high seas to get to a rocky ledge at the bottom of the cliff. Alan was in poor shape, so his mate wedged him in a crevice and piled rocks around him to stop him from being washed away. But the waves kept pounding, and they clung on as night fell. Hours later, at about 11 pm, in the darkness, Alan disappeared into the sea.
The following day, Paul was spotted by a local fisherman and swam 100 meters through the rough to get to the fishing boat.
As I said, Cape Nelson is an eerie, unsettling place.