Cape Catastrophe

Standing on the white sands of Memory Cove looking out over a beautiful azure blue sea makes you forget the dangers of this area. This sandy beach is much the same as Matthew Flinders saw  when he discovered the area in 1802 and we were standing on the beach 212 years later to the day.


On 21 February 1802, Flinders’ expedition suffered a tragic  loss of crew  when ship master John Thistle, midshipman William Taylor and six seamen were drowned when their cutter capsized while searching for fresh water. The seamen were J. Little, George Lewis, John Hopkins, William Smith, Thomas Grindall and Robert Williams. Flinders was deeply affected by this disaster and recorded place names including Thorny Passage, Memory Cove, Cape Catastrophe, and Thistle Island to commemorate the lives lost and named islands in the area after the crew members. 

Flinders placed a plaque at Memory Cove and a replica is now installed.


We left Memory Cove in sight of the nearby islands bound for Cape Catastrophe and the nearby Sea Lion colony.

Launching at Memory Cove

Launching at Memory Cove

Sheltering behind a small headland to admire the view

Sheltering behind a small headland to admire the view



The weather had been kind to us so far with the temperature  a nice 25 degrees Celsius and the winds just a gentle breeze. We followed the coast line south from the Cove checking out many of the rocky crevices and spectacular cliff faces. The water is deep here, has a deep green colour and is known for crayfish and tuna fishing. We were only a few km’s  from Dangerous Reef. a breeding ground for white pointer sharks so it is likely they too are around here somewhere as well.




This coastline is a mixture of rugged outcrops, dangerous waves, sandy protected coves and long white beaches.



Wave rocks

Wave rocks


Not many people venture this way but sadly some come to grief.


Later we moved on around the peninsula to paddle the calm waters of Coffin bay. An interesting drive over deep sand and rough tracks, but well worth the effort.


Finding the remains of a wrecked fishing boat buried in the sand.


Setting off from 7 Mile Beach it was west in the sheltered bay for lunch and  more sand dunes to climb.



The next couple of days were spent exploring the area around Black Springs.



Later we drove the 20 km sand and limestone 4WD track into Coffin Bay National Park and spent time exploring some of the more inaccessible launching spots.



We spotted a number of the local inhabitants in our travels.
One afternoon 2 large goannas wandered through our camp and climbed a tree near us.


On occasions we had emus wander through our camp.


Kangaroos spent time watching us.


Dolphins whizzed by in a large pod about 30 strong.


Wedge tailed eagles circled overhead looking for an easy meal.


Sea Lions lazed about on the rocks.

Sea Lions doing what they do best---relax on a warm rock

Sea Lions doing what they do best—relax on a warm rock

Sea birds of all varieties squawked overhead.


Of course there were other less cuddly locals.


A great place to spend a couple of weeks exploring the coast. Lots of interesting paddling locations ranging from calm to challenging all with great scenery and wildlife.

We headed east coming across the familiar landscape of the inland areas and decided to divert to the north Flinders Ranges for a week of exploring. 


Sand tracks and stingrays

Our cunning plan was to leave the Calca Peninsula and move to the Black Springs campsite in the Coffin Bay National Park, where we could launch for Point Longnose and Pt. Sir Isaac.

The Calca peninsula is very sparcely inhabited and provides some great insights into what may have been in the past. The coastline is also inspiring with rugged cliffs and rocky bays.

I think this old homestead building has “gone to God” and certainly someone agrees.


Others had also gone the same way a long time ago.

Grave 1

Tiny grave decorated with ancient Abalone shells and a long gone blue flower vase

Grave 2

A wander along the coastline found Sea Lions playing in the surf.

sea lion rock 1

or sunbaking on the sand


and talking about girls

sea lion argue

Our journey came to a halt on our way along a 4WD track into Black Springs Well. Bogged to the axles in deep soft sand and unable to keep going forward. Luckily Matt “the shovel” was with us and in around 2 hours we were unstuck and on our way, but this time to a different camp site. Just another minor change in plan for the group.

The view of Mt. Dutton and Coffin Bays from the track above our camp showed the winding series of bays. Matt and Kathrin spent time on the water here while Ian and Robyn investigated the various walks.

Unbogged and going againBay view

Matt left some cool water in the upturned lid of his kayak hatch and had a few thankful guests in the late afternoon.

Birds hatch 1wallaby Joey drink

A visit to the beach meant a swim with another of the Bay’s creatures. A large Stingray kept circling in the shallows, just to stop everyone being completely relaxed on this beautiful beach.