Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bare Bones

Photo of Marine Park at The Rip, Port Phillip Heads. Photo: Greg Blair.

Project Idea!

I am planning a larger project based on the Two Bays pilot project that we ran on Pelican in January this year. I am using this post to think out loud as I want to develop an aspect of the project around the known oral history of the Bay from the Boonerwrung people and link it with the understandings being developed from marine mapping. That's the bare bones.

The fleshing of the bones takes me back to an earlier post which gives a bit more detail on the links between the indigenous oral history relating to the geomorphology of this region and our current knowledge developed through marine mapping. During our project this year we were carrying out a large water quality survey and the results for Port Phillip Bay were that the bay is hyposaline, in fact, it is the saltiest since the EPA started monitoring 30 odd years ago. This is due to the fact that we have been in a very severe drought and the usual amounts of fresh water are not flowing into the bay. The bay is now saltier than Bass Strait (the ocean body at the entrance).
Usually the water from the bay flows out at the upper most level of the water, but as salt makes it heavier we are theorising that the water flowing out will be on bottom.

If you did go back to my earlier post you may now get an idea about why this exites my imagination. The water flowing out at the bottom may be recreating the original waterfall underwater. We will be able to test this with a wonderful oceanographer's tool called an acoustic Doppler current profiler, which will hopefully be able to capture the data to give us a true picture of the exchange processes taking place in the Rip.

The Boonerwrung Elders tell a story about the changes that happened here 10,000 years ago when the seas rose and created the bay and Bass Strait. Here is that story.

Bunjil is an Aboriginal god of creation

"Many years ago this land that we now call Melbourne extended right out to the ocean. Port Phillip Bay was then a large flat plain where Boonerwrung hunted kangaroos and cultivated their yam daisy.

But one day there came a time of chaos and crises. The Boonerwrung and the other Kulin nations were in conflict. They argued and fought. They neglected their children. They neglected their land. The native yam was neglected. The animals were killed but not always eaten. The fish were caught during their spawning season. As this chaos grew the sea became angry and began to rise until it covered their plain and threatened to flood the whole of their country.

The people went to Bunjil, their creator and spiritual leader. They asked Bunjil to stop the sea from rising. Bunjil told his people that they would have to change their ways if they wanted to save their land. The people thought about what they had been doing and made a promise to follow Bunjil. Bunjil walked out to the sea, raised his spear and directed the sea to stop rising. Bunjil then made the Boonerwrung promise that they would respect the laws.

The place the Kulin then chose to meet as a means of resolving these differences is where this Parliament [of Victoria] is now located. The Kulin nations met here regularly for many thousands of years. They debated issues of great importance to the nation; they celebrated, they danced. "

It seems that our time now is not so different to the crisis that is painted for the Aboriginal peoples. These strong warning stories (not dissimilar to the story of the Ark) have a strong resonance today as we face issues such as global warming and environmental destruction. I am hoping to amplify the science that we are doing in the Two Bays project through these deep cultural histories to help to bed us deeper in the place we are in and help support our efforts to protect it.

Bare bones still....Next comes the how, where and with whom!


archie said...

How interesting. I know (without knowing the details) that there are similar Noongah stories about the plain which used to stretch out into Cockburn Sound to Rottnest Island.

My own researches into mythology and pre-history indicate this was an important time worldwide and could have been the end of the early matriarchal agricultural age (originally Gatherers) in the Middle East as the patriarchal pastoralists (originally Hunters) came to power.

I wonder what major societal changes the coming geographic convulsions will bring.

scout said...

i wonder if it was matriarchal or mother clan....quite a difference and not always recognized.

anyways, austin, this sounds very exciting!!! am i guessing wrong or are you doing cultural mapping alongside scientific mapping?

if you are combing the two i was involed in a cultural mapping project for the gulf islands here on the west coast of canuk land. we formed an art collective (lane 20) and got radical with it but were exceptionally well received.

the gist is, what fun!

austin said...

Hi Archie,

Glad you find my ramblings interesting. I hope to do a whole lot more research to make a lively project and do justice to these stories.

The changes ahead are going to bring out the best and the worst that humanity has to offer, I'm sure. We can only hope that the wisdom that is around helps shield us from the worst and navigate towards the best! Maybe if the genders are standing on equal turf we might just manage some kind of peaceful transition.

Thanks for the visit and I'll definitely be dropping by your site when I can. I love it when I have time for a blog wander as you never know what is around the next click. I found you wandering around Wandering Coyote!

Hiya scout,

That is definitely what I am aimimg at doing. In fact, that is just the term I was looking for (cultural mapping). Is there info somewhere about the project you were involved in as it would be great to glean ideas about process etc?!

scout said...

this is the project i was involved in:

sorry it took a while to get back to you!!!!

austin said...

Thanks scout,

I would love to get a copy of the book, Islands in the Salish Sea. It looks very beautiful. So I'll see if the publisher will send it to Oz.
The PDF is very helpful too. All the best to you!