Several readers have taken exception with assertion by some Hyams Beach locals that Jervis Bay has the whitest sand in Australia (Dreaming of a White Christmas, 2December 24, 2016).
On a recent motorcycle trip to Western Australia, Mark Jekabsons, of Tuggeranong, trekked across the sand at Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park "which locals say was scientifically tested as the whitest in Australia – ahead of both Hyams Beach and also Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, the other beach which often makes that claim."
Backing-up Lucky Bay residents were emails from a number of Canberra-based operatives from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Australian Government agency which supported "the most recent comprehensive research" by the National Committee on Soil and Terrain into the whitest sand in Australia back in 2009.
According to their report, the committee collected samples of sand from the top 10 centimetres in the active beach zone of competing beaches in each state (Hyams was the NSW challenger) and the Northern Territory. To measure the "whiteness", scientists then analysed the reflectance of each sample over the visible and infrared wavelengths.
"Until you see the sands side by side, it is hard to know which is whitest," reports Noel Schoknecht, who was chairman of the committee, which confirmed "Lucky Bay as the clear winner".
While Schoknecht admitted the white beach challenge "was predominantly a light-hearted out-of- hours diversion from the committee's normally serious work on the nation's soils," he subsequently created a website which he hopes to add to on retirement by "travelling to all the world's white beaches".
Schoknecht pulls no punches in his website, myth-busting some of the unsubstantiated claims by Hyams Beach devotees. "The most common myth is that Hyams Beach has an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the whitest beach in the world," he says. ''A bold claim, and totally devoid of fact as there is no such entry in the Guinness Book of Records, and there was no competition to award Hyams Beach this title."
Ouch. Talk about throwing sand in your face.
With bragging rights and significant tourist dollars at stake, the debate over which beach is whitest is likely to rage on, but one thing is for certain – all three are stunningly beautiful, and, that, we should celebrate.
Oh, and perhaps more pertinently for Canberrans in search of some salt water therapy this summer, Hyams is a much more accessible than Lucky Bay or Whitehaven.
See you on the sand.
It seems that this column's recent exposé on giant cuttlebones has started a new trend – to give them as gifts.
While several readers, including Susan Roberts, of Kambah, were surprised to find cuttlebones in their Christmas stockings, Melissa Fellows reveals she was given her whopper "by a work colleague as a parting gift".
"It was from a marine geoscientist, who also gave me a number of seahorses," reports Fellows whose 38-centimetre long specimen matches that found by Michael Brown while beachcombing at Bermagui last month (Colossal Cuttlefish, December 10).
Still at the beach, Alan Nicol, of Moruya, has issued a new challenge to sun-kissed readers – to find the longest tentacle of that most unwelcome of visitors to our beaches each summer, the blue bottle.
Nicol recently photographed a specimen on Moruya Beach which boasted a 3 metre-long venomous tentacle [in the photo you can just see the 30 centimetre ruler at the end of its tentacle].
"Can anyone beat that?" asks Nicol, who also wonders "how the tentacle survived the waves?"
"Maybe it's not as frail as it looks?" he ponders.
While this column's well-travelled correspondents have failed to find a shoe gate to rival the farm gate covered in over 30 odd pieces of footwear located near the southern gateway to Canberra's Namadgi National Park (Shoe Gate, August 27, 2016), a number of readers have submitted photos of what must be a close relative of the shoe gate — the thong tree.
While finding a parking spot near the "glorious Sea Cliff Bridge" at Coalcliff near Wollongong, Janet Reynolds, of Greenleigh, "stumbled upon a flip flop tree", whose origins began a couple of years ago after a couple who apparently drove across the bridge in a brand new sports car pulled into a nearby road to park. According to local folklore, unfortunately the driver's partner stepped in dog droppings and not wanting the filthy footwear to soil his flash car, he tossed them into the tree in disgust.
While its origins may sound far-fetched, the tree has become an unlikely tourist attraction with some visitors even signing their thongs before hanging them in a tree.
Meanwhile, Dave Moore has been keeping a close eye on a similarly decorated tree at Emerald Beach near Coffs Harbour which "has grown steadily over the last three years, due to a local who picks up lost thongs left or washed up on the beach".
"Last time I drove past, the tree was groaning under the weight of orphaned thongs," reports Moore.
I'm also aware of a thong-laden tree at Tuross Head, but are there others closer to Canberra?
WHERE ON THE SOUTH COAST?
Clue: You pedal past here on one of our region's best family-friendly coastal cycle ways.
Degree of difficulty: Easy - Medium
Last week: Congratulations to Jill Hanson, of Fisher, who was first to correctly identify last week's photo as the 'crashed' cessna at the Coila Auto Centre and Caravan Park located on the Princes Highway between Moruya and the Tuross Head turnoff.
Hanson just beat a number of other readers to the prize including Julie Hope, of Nicholls, who drove past the pink plane during her "first stay at Potato Point last week", and Sarah Parsons, of Deniliquin, whose parents have a house "just up the road".
Several readers including Katherine Stanton, of Melba, point out that, "the plane has become so popular that owners of the auto centre have turned it into a fundraiser, recently adding a donations box on the upturned cockpit for the Cancer Council of Australia".
Meanwhile, Wendy Kefford reports that the plane is right next to a "bikini-clad outdoor mannequin promoting prawns", which Stacey Power, of Theodore, jokes "is perhaps the reason the pilot crashed!"
Special note to Simon Spinetti, of Kaleen, who juggled time zones to submit his answer from the departure lounge at Singapore Airport en-route to Vietnam for summer holidays.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday January 7, 2017 with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.