With the slight easing in restrictions across Melbourne, I took advantage of a 2 hr excursion that included a walk, a sit-down and some food. As I often do, I took the coastal path around half-moon bay. I made my way to where the old ship HMVS Cerberus has been submerged since 1924. There’s a small coffee shop there which also sells takeaway fish and chips.
You probably know this already, but the Cerberus is the last of its type in the world. It’s also the only substantially intact warship of Australia’s pre-Federation colonial navies. This shipwreck rests in shallow waters at Black Rock where she acts as a break-water.
Her primary role was to protect the nation’s gold by patrolling the waters in and around Melbourne, protecting it and its rich gold resources from attack. Not sure by whom, but I suspect pirates or something similar. The Victorian gold rush was happening at the same time as significant instability in Europe. Britain and Russia were rattling swords at each other and the colonies faced the possibility of hostilities with the Russian Navy. The British fleet was the other side of the world. The ship itself is also rather unique in that it includes the first major weapon transition from fixed gun mounts to revolving gun mounts. Designed by Captain Cowper Phipps Coles in 1854.
Back to the ‘excursion’. I often sit on the bluestone wall near the boat ramp and jetty a few metres from the wreck, and just observe all that’s going on around me. It’s a peaceful place most of the time. People venturing into the bay for a swim. Young and old sailing their OK Dinghies. Black and Pied Cormorants drying their wings; perching like statues on the heavily rusted Coles gun turret. There’s always a few Pacific Gulls roosting with their heads facing into the wind. And who can ignore the Silver Gulls?
So, on Monday, I head out to Cerberus. This time I’ve decided to also treat myself to a piece of Blue Grenadier and a minimum of chips, take them to the wall and eat them while enjoying some sunshine. What an experience that turned out to be!
Not only was it a ‘ first’ for me in such a long time, but it seems like it was a ‘first’ for all the gulls. They literally followed me to the wall which was about 100 m away. I don’t know whether they could smell the fish and chips, or they just recognised the white paper bag in which they were wrapped. It was like a scene out of that Hitchcock movie. I wasn’t anxious. I was thrilled about having some company for lunch. Well, I sat below the wall with my back leaning against a rock. Sun on my face. Mask hanging off one ear. Gulls standing behind me. Gulls standing on the wall above me. Gulls hovering overhead. All of them as keen as I was to eat my first fried chip in months. There was one of me and fifty of them. It was time for some almighty squabbling. They didn’t let me down.
The photographs below capture something of the scene that I was experiencing.
Quite often I would toss a chip either behind me or in front of me. There were too many chips even for me, and I was happy to celebrate this moment with them. I got the sense that they too were missing the presence of people – who am I kidding, it’s the chips they missed.
Hierarchy kicked in. Older males arched their necks and with open beaks squawked and charged at the younger birds; trying to drive away the competition. But while they were busy noisily asserting themselves and defending their turf, other quieter ones stood silently nearby and got most of the chips. It’s not the noisy bird that gets the chip.
Funny the lessons you can learn from nature.
What a treat that bag of fish and chips turned out to be. Life is good.