Corny Point and Cap Clairout
Back in 2014 I revived an old vague interest of mine in geology…and then made it anything but vague (I’m blaming a combination of Minecraft and jewellery making for this sudden craze). I read a pile of publications specifically about South Australian geology, firstly focusing on the Yorke Peninsula and then on the Fleurieu Peninsula. I started with the Yorke Peninsula because that is where we tend to holiday and I have time for random pursuits such as this. I got my hands on the Field Guide to the Geology of Yorke Peninsula and identified places I could visit that had interesting rocks.
I’m not naive, I didn’t expect to go out and strike gold or diamonds or anything of importance really (though I did find out where they might be found ::cackles evilly:: ), but I was very interested in locating some bedrock and quartz and, in particular, pegmatites (which hold a lot of the larger crystalised minerals). My little geology book mentioned that I could find pegmatites at Corny Point, (along with, OMG, garnets! – yes, totally geeking out) as the rocks there are Pre-Cambrian basement, approximately 1,170 million years old.
So why am I babbling about this? Well, I’ve discovered another community and I wanted to participate.
So this is a part of my corner of the world that I would like to share – because I found more than just rocks.
Corny Point is a small town on the littlest toe of the giant foot that is the Yorke Peninsula. The town sprawls along the coast and mainly consists of beach shacks and dreamed-about holiday homes. There is a general store, a caravan park and a lot of beach and farmland. Directly west of the town is a rocky point that shelters the beaches of the main bays. The point is usually referred to as ‘Corny Point’, but on investigation it appears that the outcrop which the Corny Point Lighthouse sits on is called Cap Clairout. And this is where we ventured.
The lighthouse (note the bird’s nest on the top tier) is on the western most prong of the rocky outcrop and beneath it are all the gorgeous ancient rocks you could dream about. Lots of smoky quartz, gneiss all twisted and gnarly and feldspar in great chunks. Lots of mica as well (apparently you can discover both biotite and muscovite mica, but my eyes were too busy eyeing everything so I didn’t distinguish the two). While I was poking around the rocks, Hubby took the pictures below of the rugged coastline and the waters of Spencer Gulf.
We walked around the point and came to this bay – you may want to right click on the photo and view image to see it larger, it is a stunning little bay.
The rocks that back the bay are limestone and calcrete and have been protected by the hard basement rocks of the points to create this beautiful bay. The kids loved it, as did I, and we eventually walked the length of it. I say ‘eventually’ because on our first trip to Cap Clairout, we didn’t find the much anticipated garnets! It took me begging my husband to go again (we were staying 70kms to the east, so it is no small drive) a couple days later and the realisation that of the two prongs of the Cap, I had been hunting on the wrong one. The garnets (tiny little things they are) can be found on the rocks on the other prong of the Cap, the one you can see at the other end of the bay in the photo above. D’Oh!
But anyway! Any excuse to explore more 😀
There are quite a few different rocks in this picturesque little cove and I’m fully intending on going back and fully exploring the other side – the one without the lighthouse and with the garnets. If you are not interested in rocks and prefer a little surfing, directly to the south of the Corny Point Lighthouse you will find a lovely long stretch of beach called Berry Bay, a favourite of many for beach activities.
So this is a favoured spot in my corner of this planet. It is 267kms from where I live, but I could do it there and back in a day, no problem (I have done more than the equivalent). My reasons are a little from the norm, except it is a beach and I love beaches in any case, but this one has some cool rocks to oggle at as well 😀
I hope you enjoyed this post and I’d love any comments you might like to share.
PS: A note on names
I wrote the above on Sunday so I could have it ready for Tuesday, but Monday morning I hurt my back (old injury, very annoying) so I’ve been doing a lot of lying around. The name of this place has been bugging me – is it Corny Point or Cap Clairout? So using my iPad, I did some serious research (it is amazing what you can find on the internet nowadays).
I suspected that it was a case of Matthew Flinders vs Nicholas Baudin as is often the case in South Australia. The South Australian coastline was known as ‘The Unknown Coast’ at the end of the 1700s. It was one of the last bits to be charted by Europeans. The above explorers were in a race between England and France to discover new resources and it was the Napoleonic era for France, so there is a doozy of a story behind all that if you’re interested, and consequently there is a mishmash of English and French names throughout the coast of South Australia.
So is it Corny Point or Cap Clairout?
Well, it is not as easy as that.
Firstly the indigenous names, from the Narungga people – Nhildidji
From the South Australian Gazetteer (Location SA Viewer Search for ‘Cap Clairout’)
‘It is claimed that this placename comes from the Aboriginal name for the spring, but it appears only in a general history of the area (source unknown). There is some confusion in the sources about the names of places also known as Corny Point, Rhino Head and Royston Head, so that it may not be fully certain which place has which Narungga name however the Narungga opted to dual name the feature as Corny Point / Nhildidji vide Government Gazette 29/9/2011. Also recorded by the Narungga Peoples as Ngannibba and Tindale as Nganepa‘
I guess that is what happens when you trash a culture, information is lost. Technically speaking, first dibs, this should be the name of the headland.
Next explorer on the scene, considerably later, Friday 19 March 1802, Matthew Flinders – Corny Point (or Corney Point).
I went to the source on this one and dug up an online version of ‘A Voyage to Terra Australis’ by Matthew Flinders. Thank you Project Gutenberg Australia.
‘The howling of dogs was heard during the night, and at daylight [FRIDAY 19 MARCH 1802] the shore was found to be distant two or three miles, and was woody, rising land, but not of much elevation. A remarkable point, which I named Corny Point, bearing S 73° W. three miles, was the furthest land visible to the westward; its latitude, from meridian observations of Jupiter and the moon, is 34° 52′ South, and longitude from the time-keepers 137° 6½’ east. Between this point and Point Pearce, twenty-eight miles to the north-north-east, is a large bay, well sheltered from all southern winds, and none others seem to blow with much strength here. The land trends eastward about seven leagues, from Corny Point to the head of the bay; but what the depth of water may be there, or whether any fresh stream fall into it, I am not able to state; the land, however, was better wooded, and had a more fertile appearance than any before seen in the neighbourhood. I called this HARDWICKE BAY, in honour of the noble earl of that title.’
The land certainly isn’t woody anymore 🙁 Totally farmland.
Then I figured that I’d check out Baudin’s adventures, but although his records are online, I don’t speak French, he never made it back to France from the voyage and there are some major issues with the information delivered to France by his crew. Francois Peron wrote up the voyage, but apparently he wasn’t a fan of Baudin and corrupted the work accordingly. There were charts made by Louis Freycinet, the naturalist on the voyage, but they are missing reference to the above headland (well, what I could find, other than noting that they must have encountered the headland in some way as it is the only feature in that area vaguely charted on the map, but it is lacking a name). So I really couldn’t access the original information I needed from my bed, so I had to rely on secondary sources. Enter again, the South Australian Gazetteer (after scouring the net for several hours looking for original sources).
Well, I found what Baudin named it officially – Pointe des Soupirs (Point of Sighs)
Named in 1802 apparently (I don’t have the source, but I’m pretty sure was April 1802). I can understand why he called it that. I did manage to hunt down his journal translated into English and read the part where he explored Spencer Gulf and the piece of coastline I’m looking at, and he wasn’t having a good time. The weather was horrible, a few days earlier he had run into Flinders who informed him that he’d already charted most of the coast (they were travelling in opposite directions, so Flinders had already been where the French were going, what a downer) and his crew (on multiple occasions during this voyage) were not happy chappies with their captain. So yeah, there would have been a lot of sighing as he floated past, if not downright crying.
But what about Cap Clairout??? Sounds French, translates as Clear Cap (according to the wonderful Google Translate, but I’m guessing it is more like Cape Clear – which it wasn’t, the boat was in a howling gale). I also considered the words might be altered as there is a Cape Clairault in Western Australia. So lots of fumbling around online, I even considered contacting the State Library with a reference query – how bad of me the trained librarian having to resort to asking for help – well, back injury, bed, you know that unable to sit or walk for extended periods thing (I need to hurry up and finish typing).
Found it this morning (apparently my ancient iPad wasn’t up to displaying the Gazetteer in all its wonders). Found this:
‘Name as given by Baudin in longhand on his plans, but appear not to have been shown on any official records.’
Source: Cooper’s “French Exploration”, “The Unknown Coast” Pg 56 (I discovered that Harold Cooper was a South Australian historian in the mid-1900s – interesting guy, I need to hunt up some of his books – including this one!)
The remaining question is – if this was the unofficial name, how did this one make it onto Google Maps and not the others? And while I could send in a correction, should I?
Anyways, I love a puzzle, can you tell – this is why I work in a library. I thought I would share this as the above adds extra background to the little geology expedition above and the history of South Australia in general.
And many congratulations if you’ve read all the way down here, you are fabulous, thank you for your interest 😀
(going back to bed)