Growing up, did you build castles or forts on the beach to try to hold out the waves? The waves come in rushes, overtopping the walls. You hastily rebuild, waiting for the next wave to arrive. In the end, you have to go home, leaving your construction to be destroyed by the waves.
We remember the inexorable power of the waves from our childhood experiences or from playing on the beach with our own children. It’s not all that long ago since my own girls were young enough for me to play with them in this way, sometimes attracting other kids from the length and breadth of the beach. I still miss those times!
This is a history column, not a chance for personal recollections, attractive though that may be.
You are standing on
looking at what will become South West Rocks. It is forty thousand years ago.
The sea is 50 metres below its current level. You look across a coastal plain
sloping down. You turn to your right. The coast is distant. Smoky Cape
It is now twenty thousand years ago. The sea is 120 metres below its current level. From your perch on
you face out to sea. You cannot see the water. It’s much colder, perhaps 6-10 C
degrees below current levels. Smoky Cape
You think of popping down to the coast for a swim, then shrug, Perhaps not. You come from the cold Tablelands. There are glacial ice sheets at Guyra. You are used to the cold. Still, it’s just too cold. You shrug and pull your fur coat around you.
It is now seven thousand years ago. From around fifteen thousand years temperatures began to rise, the ice sheets began to melt.
The rush of water was quite sudden. On the vast plains and wetlands that stretched between the current Australian continent and
up to a metre of land was lost to the seas each year. Entire ancestral lands
were lost within a generation. The myth of the great flood was born. New Guinea
Around six thousand years, the seas began to stabilise. As they did, sand barriers began to extend from coastal islands such as
. The silt deposited by the Smoky Cape was no longer washed away, but
began to accumulate. A new estuarine environment was being formed. Macleay River
Around five thousand years looking north east of
, you would have seen an Aboriginal
camp begin on the foreshores near what would become Clybucca Creek. Smoky Cape
Drawn by the rich shell fish resources, the camp would last for over two thousand years, but was then abandoned. The silting of the Macleay estuary meant that the previous marine food resources would no longer support a camp at that point.
as we know it today had emerged. Macleay Valley
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 15 April 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.