Title(s) of object:
Brief description of object:
A headland of Ordovician turbidite, including a sea-stack shaped like a seated camel, at the north end of Haywards Beach, north of Bermagui.
Location of object:
At the north end of Haywards Beach, six kilometres north of Bermagui.
Accessibility of object:
Accessible on foot along the beach from the ‘Camel Rock Beach’ carpark and picnic area, which is signposted from the tourist drive that runs north from Bermagui to the Wallaga Lake bridge.
History and provenance of object:
The headland Murunna is a sacred site of the Yuin peoples. For thousands of years corroborees (dance ceremonies where participants interacted with the Dreamtime) were held on top of the headland. People travelled here from up and down the coast, and from the Monaro tablelands, to attend, and to trade tools and other items and share food. The fresh waterhole at the base of the headland on the north side is a sacred place for women.
A formation in the cliff behind the sea stack looks like a woman’s head. The Yuin people believed that this woman warns people to stay away from the water, which can have a dangerous rip – and indeed, at the time of writing there has been a drowning there.
European settlers of Bermagui christened the sea stack at Murunna ‘Camel Rock’ some time in the late nineteenth century. Some web sites claim that the name was given by the navigators George Bass and Matthew Flinders, when they explored the coast in 1798 in the sloop Norfolk. [This is stated on the ‘Aussie Towns’ website entry for Bermagui at http://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/bermagui-nsw. Bass and Flinders did survey Two Fold Bay for four days during their 1798 voyage, but it seems unlikely that they named Camel Rock, as an Admirality chart of the coast dating from the mid-nineteenth century does not record the name, and the name is not mentioned in the exhaustive documentation of the search of the beaches for the missing surveyor Lamont Young and the four other occupants of a small boat, who vanished in 1880.
The headland and Camel Rock are a formation of ordovician turbidite, a type of sedimentary rock formed at the sea bottom in the Ordovician Era, which lasted from 488 million years ago to 444 million years ago.
In terms of their geology, the headland and rock are a formation of Ordovician turbidite, revealed by the erosive effect of waves. Turbidite is formed when shales and pebbles flow in a ‘turbidity flow’ down an undersea slope, often because they are dislodged by tectonic movement (i.e., earthquakes). Large quantities of sediment flow and, at the bottom of the slope, arrange themselves into layers from fine shales to coarse pebbles. These layers are then compressed to form sedimentary rock that has distinctive bands.
The rock of which Murunna / Camel Rock is composed was formed on the sea bottom off the coast of Gondwanaland, the super-continent at the South Pole that was the only land-mass during the Ordovician Era. Gondwanaland was then dispersed into various land masses by tectonic action, and the plate carrying this turbidite rose to become part of the East Coast of Australia. Part of the formation has been eroded by wave action to become a sea stack resembling the back, neck and head of a seated camel.
The particular significance of this object:
The fact that the feature is almost exclusively known by its European name Camel Rock reminds us of the colonial erasure of Indigenous culture, language and history, which persists today. The National Trust has erected colourful signs at locations of Indigenous significance throughout the Bermagui area, to help recall the Indigenous history and significance to our minds. Such publications are much needed to restore balance to historical records.
The European name of the formation reminds us of the rapid naming (actually renaming) of places and landmarks during colonisation, so that the coast of Australia abounds with features named after animals. Lieutenant James Cook, sailing down the coast of what is now New South Wales on 21 April 1770, named the mountain that for millenia had been called Gulaga, ‘Mount Dromedary’ because of its hump part-way along a more gradually rounded ridge, and Camel Rock provided a pleasing echo of the mountain’s European name.
The headland and stack are also a feature of the complex geology of the coast between Narooma and Bermagui, which includes an unusual variety of types and ages of rock, both volcanic and sedimentary, some of it gold-bearing. (Turbidite is often gold-bearing.) Murunna/Camel Rock is on the fringes of the Dromedary Igneous Province, on a coastline where outcrops of igneous rock formed by lava flows from the ancient volcano of which Gulaga is a remnant, alternate with formations of Ordiivician turbidite such as this one. The formation reminds us of the enormous pressures and vast time-frames that have created the Far South Coast landscape. Here rock formed by vast underwater mud-slides followed by compression, has then been cast up by tectonic action and sculpted by waves into a shape that we see as a camel.
Since the automobile and sealed roads made the Far South Coast accessible, it has become a summer holiday destination for large numbers of people from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Murunna/Camel Rock stands next to a patrolled beach close to two caravan parks, so it has been a striking feature of the holidays of innumerable children for the better part of a century.
Related places, items, collections:
Comparative and associated examples (in collections outside the shire):
Works depicting/highlighting this object:
We’re not aware of any works featuring Camel Rock.
Historic photographs of this object:
We’re not aware of historic photographs of the rock.
Geographically associated places / sites:
Associated / linked places / sites / items / people:
Heritage listings (statutory and non-statutory):
Contributors to this ‘library’:
Acknowledgements, Rights and Permissions:
References and bibliography:
‘A journey through the earth history of Australia’s coastal wilderness: Part IV, Gulaga – the first of three mountains’
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This Bega Shire Hidden Heritage project has been made possible by the NSW Government through its Heritage Near Me program.
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