ACT News

Tim the Yowie Man's top 10 myths and legends of Broulee and Mossy Point

Every summer throngs of sun-seeking Canberrans flock to Broulee and Mossy Point for some saltwater therapy. However, for Richard Fisher this seaside precinct just to the south of Batemans Bay is much more than just sand and surf.

Fisher, a former Canberran, fell in love with the area after regular childhood visits to Mossy Point from 1946, and more recently he retired to the South Coast hamlet.

Richard Fisher emerges from a World War II bunker at Burrewarra Point, near Broulee.
Richard Fisher emerges from a World War II bunker at Burrewarra Point, near Broulee. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

Inspired by a desire to share the stories of the area's fascinating folklore, Fisher has created a website which features "some random recollections of Mossy Point, Broulee, Tomakin and Burrewarra Point, mostly since the 1940s".

Recently, I accepted an offer by the passionate folklorist to explore his picturesque patch and as a result, here I reveal my top 10 myths and legends of Broulee/ Mossy Point.

Where on the South Coast last week.
Where on the South Coast last week. Photo: Supplied

1. Burrewarra bunker

Just north of Mossy Point, and hidden among old man banksias and coastal scrub, is a partially buried concrete bunker. It's the remains of the RAAF No.17 Radar Station which was operational during the last two years of World War II, providing radar coverage to the waters off the South Coast.

"It's a little-known fact that during World War II, 113 sailors were lost in submarine attacks on seven ships between Jervis Bay and Gabo Island," Fisher says.

The bunker is a few hundred metres along (and about 15 metres north of) the 1.3-kilometre return Banksia Walking Track at Burrewarra Point.

2. Secret hideout

An even more impressive remnant from World War II, a semi-underground radio bunker which was constructed as a part of the Moruya Aerodrome complex, is concealed in bush at the Moruya side of Broulee.

Where on the South Coast this week.
Where on the South Coast this week. Photo: Supplied

"It's about as big as a house, and was located well away from the airport, to enable it to keep in operation if the aerodrome was being bombed, bombarded by shellfire from the sea, or overrun," Fisher says "There are two rooms and at each end a pill-box allowed sentry duty and, if the worst came to the worst, a position for machine gunners."

The bunker isn't sign-posted, is covered in graffiti and ankle-deep in rubbish, but is accessible via a dirt track running on the southern side of a lagoon near the racecourse.

The Broulee canoe tree.
The Broulee canoe tree. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

3. Vanishing island

A common question Fisher is asked by holidaymakers is why Broulee Island is so-named when it appears to be permanently connected to the mainland by a substantial sandspit.

"In the 1870s the sandspit that linked Broulee 'Island' to the mainland was cleared to widen the access track and with no stabilising vegetation, the sea broke through the sandspit, isolating part of the settlement and destroying the values of the bay as a harbour," Fisher says.

Cone Rock as viewed from Melville Point Lookout.
Cone Rock as viewed from Melville Point Lookout. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

"Since mid-last century it's had trouble making up its mind whether it wants to be an island or not. It was sometimes joined in the 1940s and 1950s, was an island again in 1967 and also in 1978, and in the early 1980s a narrow channel which often bore fast-moving water was all that separated it."

The island and the mainland have been joined since the early 1990s. If you have a photo clearly showing the island, Fisher would love to hear from you.

A 1966 postcard showing the "pipi tree".
A 1966 postcard showing the "pipi tree". Photo: Richard Fisher

4. Mysterious moss

Following European settlement, the village of Mossy Point was initially called Connells Point. However, in the early 1940s, to stop confusion with Connells Point in Sydney, the Postmaster General's Department decided to rename the place after the large cone-shaped rock at the end of the breakwater, which most locals then called The Mossy Point.

"At the time of the name change, the rock was completely covered in a green moss," Fisher says. "In the early 1980s the moss, believed by some to be an invasive species, was subsequently sprayed, killing most of it." Today only small patches of the moss remain on the rock, which is best viewed from the lookout at Melville Point.

Graffiti artists have left their mark inside the Broulee World War II radio post bunker.
Graffiti artists have left their mark inside the Broulee World War II radio post bunker. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

5. Rail relic

Today, adventurous beachcombers who scramble over rocks along the Mossy Point breakwater to Cone Rock will be surprised to discover a couple of puzzling pieces of rusting railway. These once formed part of a railway line which ran along most of the breakwater to enable timber from a nearby mill to be loaded onto boats bound for Sydney.

The most accessible reminder of this bygone era is an old rail protruding from the soil before the breakwater. "There's another piece of rail partially submerged along the breakwater, but that's a bit harder to find, especially at high tide," Fisher says.

Tim the Yowie Man checks out a semi-underground bunker near Broulee.
Tim the Yowie Man checks out a semi-underground bunker near Broulee. Photo: Supplied

6. Prized pipis

For much of the 1900s, a gnarly old banksia, affectionately nicknamed the pipi tree because of the plentiful number of pipis (a highly sought-after bait) found nearby, grew about half way along Broulee Beach.

Aside from a marker for the pipi colony, the stand-out tree had a number of other uses, including as a popular meeting point for teenagers. "Mossy Point boys would often ask girls from Broulee to meet them at the pipi tree," Fisher says. "Sometimes it worked, and the summer holiday would be better as a result."

Exploring the Broulee bunkers by torch light.
Exploring the Broulee bunkers by torch light. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

The tree, which had survived countless big seas, including a big storm in the 1970s which "cut the tree in half", eventually collapsed about 30 years ago.

7. Canoe tree

Just metres from busy George Bass Drive is Broulee's other iconic tree, which thankfully is still standing. This grand old red gum features an oval-shaped scar on its trunk, the result of the removal by Aboriginal people of an enormous sheet of bark many years ago to make a canoe.

Richard Fisher clambers up the sentry box at the Broulee World War II radio post bunker.
Richard Fisher clambers up the sentry box at the Broulee World War II radio post bunker. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

Although there is no tourist sign pointing to the tree, there is an interpretation panel next to the tree which states that "the canoe made from this tree may have been used as a vessel for hunting birds or spearing marine mammals. It may have also been used to travel across sheltered waters."

This canoe tree, arguably the South Coast's most easily accessible, is near the corner of George Bass Drive and Broulee Road.

The way that Cone Rock used to look. The "mossy" look led to it being called The Mossy Point. This is a Bert Duckworth ...
The way that Cone Rock used to look. The "mossy" look led to it being called The Mossy Point. This is a Bert Duckworth hand-painted postcard from the 1950s. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

8. Buried treasure

In the early 1950s an elderly member of the Chandler family (of Kingston jeweller fame) accidentally dropped two diamond rings somewhere on the sand or grass beside Candlagan Creek at Mossy Point. "Unfortunately she didn't realise she'd dropped them until she was back at her car," Fisher says. "About half the population raced there with sieves trying to find them. The rings were never found, or at least no one admitted to finding them." Fisher still often sees "hopefuls with metal detectors searching the area".

9. Cryptozoological critter

While the legend of the black puma which supposedly roams the South Coast hinterland, and which has been the subject of Bigfoot-style blurry photos, is well known, Mossy Point has its own, less ferocious, mysterious beast.

According to Fisher "a phantom ferret dwells in the shrubbery around the riverside rabbit warrens upstream from the boat ramp". First spotted in 2011, when seen it quickly vanishes, but Fisher insists "it does exist".

10. Daring dancer

North Broulee's famous annual sand sculpture competition (Tapping into the secrets of Lake George) isn't this seaside village's only artistic claim to fame. Three years ago, Melanie White of Mossy Point shattered the world record for shimmying by a remarkable 120 minutes.

Earlier this week, in a moment of insanity (blame too much sun) your akubra-clad columnist attempted to replicate her efforts. I didn't even make 120 seconds. For the uninitiated, a shimmy is a dance move in which the body is held still, except for the shoulders, which are alternated back and forth. Oh, and it's usually performed by large busted women. Mmm, maybe that's why I failed.

Happy holidays

Fact file

Broulee/Mossy Point: About 20 kilometres south of Batemans Bay via Princes Highway/A1.
Broulee Bay Folklore, Myth and Legend: Richard Fisher's knock-out website is at: brouleebayfolklore.weebly.com.
Tim's tip: The Muffin Shop, 31 Pacific Street, Mossy Point. It's not unheard of for devotees of this South Coast institution to drive all the way from Canberra just to indulge in a freshly baked muffin and coffee. Ph: (02) 4471 8599 or themuffinshop.com.au.

Contact Tim: Email: timtheyowieman@bigpond.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick. You can see a selection of past columns at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/by/Tim-the-Yowie-Man-hvf8o

Where on the South Coast?

Cryptic clue: Where God needs a good lawyer.
Degree of difficulty: Medium

Last week: Congratulations to Dan Leslie of Hughes who was first to correctly identify last week's photo, as a view of sunset from the Mill Bay Boardwalk on the northern side of the bridge at Narooma. A number of readers misidentified the scene as the boardwalk at Merimbula which, while I admit does look equally as stunning at sunset, critically lacks the imposing silhouette of Gulaga (Mount Dromedary) on the horizon.
Leslie just beat Steve Hill of Kambah and Tina Dowse to the prize who reports that she "often watches the stingrays in Mill Bay while the fishermen clean their catch" and that she "loves taking new people there as the size of the rays is always a thrill".

How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to timtheyowieman@bigpond.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday, January 2, 2016, with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.