South of Adelaide lies the Fleurieu Peninsula, a fertile, undulating place of mild climate and lonely roads, rising no more than 800 feet above the sea. It juts out like a witch’s chin, pointing south-west towards Kangaroo Island. The peninsula has around sixty or seventy miles of coastline along the Gulf St Vincent and the Southern Ocean. There are sandy beaches, but it is mostly a jumble of rocky outcrops, bluffs, cliffs, coves, estuaries and windswept valleys. There is some development, but inaccessibility foils much human effort at such things. It is a beautiful, wild, raw kind of place.
I spent a lot of time there as a child. We lived at the beach near the city, but for vacations we went to other beaches. Oftentimes we went south, to the Fleurieu. Over many summers and school field trips, you learn a thing or two about nature, and the nature of life in water and near it. As a place to discover such things, there are few peers.
For a while, the life that lay beneath rocks near the water fascinated me. There are many tessellated outcrops between Adelaide and Cape Jervis, replete with tidal pools, corals and all kinds of life. I loved the crabs that live in this semi-sea, semi-land environment. Nothing made me happier than overturning a shoebox-sized rock to note the crabs living underneath. They scuttled away, but I caught them, sometimes paying for it with nips.
How did they squish themselves into such small spaces? Did they grow into big crabs or stay palm-sized? (Child’s palm-sized!) What did they eat? What did they do when the tide came in and covered their house in seawater?
We live in a time when the tide is coming toward us. We are living under a rock for the moment, more-or-less dry, more-or-less happy, kinda doing okay. But I fear that we will need to quickly adapt when the sea truly begins to roll in, as it will. That is the lesson from those afternoons spent fooling about in rockpools – some crabs survive, others don’t.
Which will you be?