Coast Australia S2 – Episode 1 Recap

VICTORIA: Mornington Peninsula to the Gippsland Lakes

In the opening episode of Coast Australia’s second season, Neil Oliver becomes one of only five people known to have set foot on the isolated island known as Skull Rock, as he joins the first scientific expedition there to discover what life it has sustained over millennia.

At Eagle’s Nest, Tim Flannery delves into pre-history, revealing his own role in discovering Australia’s polar dinosaurs.

Neil Oliver heads offshore to explore the incredible engineering feat that keeps Bass Strait oil pumping, even under a hundred-year wave.

Alice Garner visits Victoria’s notorious Cheviot Beach, reliving the fateful day Australia lost its Prime Minister to these inclement waters.

Neil Oliver travels to Phillip Island, and reveals how an entire town was removed to save the penguins.

Brendan Moar tackles the tricky sport of Blo-Karting along the flat sands of Waratah Bay.

On the Gippsland Lakes, Emma Johnston hunts for a brand new species of dolphin, and finally Neil Oliver takes to the skies with aviatrix Judy Pay, for an unforgettable tour of the Bass Strait Coast in a fully-restored warbird.


LOCATION:  50kms east off Victoria’s East Coast

On the oldest offshore oil and gas fields in Australia, Neil discovers the extraordinary engineering achievement of these mega-structures of the sea:  The rigs and platforms scattered off this stretch of the Gippsland coast.

The Gippsland Basin has provided Australia with oil and gas for almost 50 years. There are 23 offshore platforms and installations drilling 2 kilomeres under the seabed which feed a network of 600km of underwater pipelines and keep the oil and gas flowing, 24 hours a day.  Providing 40% of Australia’s east coast gas needs, and two thirds of the country’s oil.

LOCATION: Eagle’s Nest, Inverloch

In 1903, geologist William Ferguson found the claw of a carnivorous dinosaur while searching for coal in Inverloch.  Named the Cape Paterson Claw, this discovery was later to prove of great significance in the history of paleontology.  The next dig at the site wasn’t until 1978, when Tim Flannery, then a uni student, returned to the site armed with Ferguson’s hand drawn map and field notes. And to his delight, he uncovered over 30 fossil bones! His discovery marked the start of paleontology in Victoria. Since these first exciting discoveries, which proved the existence of polar dinosaurs, thousands of fossils, belonging to at least six different dinosaur species, have been found along this narrow stretch of coast.

To this day, a group of volunteers, called the Dinosaur Dreaming Group still makes discoveries on the rock platforms of Inverloch.

Cheviot Beach, Point Nepean, Mornington Peninsula

The lonely beach and restless waters of Cheviot Bay on the Point Nepean Peninsula reveal no trace of the two great dramas that have occurred here – the wreck of the Cheviot in 1887 and, 80 years later, the mysterious disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt.

We met a man involved in the rescue effort for Prime Minister Holt – it was biggest search ever mounted in Australia for an individual.

LOCATION:  Phillip Island

In the 1960 and 70s, building a holiday home in the seaside village of Summerlands on Phillip Island was a dream come true – cheap land with 360 degree sea views. But it also happened to be home to thousands of penguins who had built their colony there long before the houses appeared.

As the Summerlands housing estate grew, penguins were being killed by cars and domestic pets. Over 100 penguins were dying every year and the colony was headed for extinction unless drastic action was taken. The historic buyback scheme involved moving out 180 houses and their human residents. It’s the first time a human settlement has been displaced for a single animal species anywhere in the world.  Thanks to this radical conservation effort, the penguin colony is now thriving.

Neil Oliver meets Dr. Peter Dann who spearheaded the campaign.  While Elisabeth Lundahl Hegedus, a Summerlands resident for 35 years, tells Neil about her unusual neighbours and shows us the spot where her house once stood.

LOCATION:  Skull Rock (Cleft Island) – 5kms off coast from WILSONS PROMONTORY

Over 200 metres wide and 100 metres high, Skull Rock, (officially known as Cleft Island), off the coast of Wilsons Promontory, lives up to its name. It’s a mighty skull-shaped formation in the wilds of the Bass Strait housing a massive cave – so big it is thought it was used as target practice for passing warships.

Isolated by the sea and its imposing cliffs, the cave has never been properly investigated…until now. Neil and an expert team of scientists from the Museum of Victoria arrive on top of Skull Rock by helicopter, from where they must abseil down into the cave. Dr Mark Norman, Head of Science at Museum Victoria, conducts a ‘bio scan’ – the first faunal survey ever done in the cave, curious to see what life they will find…and maybe the odd cannon ball.

LOCATION: Waratah Bay, west of Wilsons Promontory

Blo-Karting is one of the most exciting adventure sports on the coast. Having evolved from the cumbersome land-yachts of previous generations, the karts themselves resemble a three-wheeled Go-Kart with a windsurfing sail on top. In the hands of an expert, these sail-powered pocket rockets have been known to reach speeds of 98kmh an hour. Yet their versatility, compact size and intuitive control design makes them accessible for all levels of skill. Brendan gives it a go on the beach at Waratah Bay.

LOCATION: Gippsland Lakes (near Paynesville)

On one side of 90 Mile Beach is the treacherous Bass Strait, and on the other side, the serene and peaceful Gippsland Lakes. The largest inland lake system in Australia has long been a haven for fishermen sailing enthusiasts and nature loving Melbournites. It has also recently been identified as the home of a previously undiscovered species of dolphin.

In 2011 Marine Biologist Dr Kate Charlton Robb made the discovery of a lifetime when she identified and described the Burrunan Dolphin, which is unique to the Gippsland Lakes and a few isolated locations in southern Australia. Cetacean lover, Dr Emma Johnston, joins Kate on a research trip to find out how unique they really are.

LOCATION:  Tyabb, Mornington Peninsula

Neil meets the remarkable aviatrix Judy Pay and take a look at her private fleet of historic restored ‘warbird’ aircraft.  Judy takes Neil on a vintage joy-ride to farewell the east coast of Victoria from the air.


Corner Inslet (South Gippsland) to Snake Island (via Port Welshpool)

Xanthe Mallet joins a horseback cattle muster like no other, across the tidal shallows of Corner Inlet to the green pastures of Snake Island. It’s a practice that’s taken place every year for over a century, and today’s generation of cattlemen are determined to keep this special heritage alive.
Cattlemen have driven herds across the sea from Port Welshpool to Snake Island since Europeans first came to the Gippsland coast. Uninhabited and owned by the Crown, the island was opened to agistment for the struggling hillside farmers bordering the Strzelecki Ranges. During the coldest months, they herded their cattle down the hills and across the water to the fertile grass of Snake Island.  While the muster was once an economic imperative and a way of survival, these days it is done more for tradition. The most senior and experienced cattlemen earn the badge of ‘pilot’: their job is to skillfully guide the cattle across narrow tracks avoiding treacherous quick sand.


Towards the end of 1914, rumors began to circulate that the newest German submarines were capable of a much higher surface speed than British boats. In response to this threat, the British navy designed the J Class submarine – the fastest submarines of their time. After a successful war service, the submarines were gifted to Australia and eventually decommissioned.

But after the ravages of wartime service, the subs all needed a major overhaul – something the Australian Government at the time couldn’t afford – so in the 1920s, all six submarines were scuttled.  Four were sunk in Bass Strait about 4 kilometres from Port Phillip and the remaining two became breakwaters inside the bay.

Alice Garner employs the latest technology to take a look inside their historical legacy with the help of Jonathan Roberts – a robotics expert at CSIRO who has created the world’s first handheld 3D mapping system named ‘Zebedee’.  The long- term aim is to use this technology to tell the story of these First World War heritage sites in a modern and unique way.

Heritage Victoria led the survey of the submarine and funded the survey and engagement of CSIRO and their mapping team.  Heritage Victoria manages all shipwrecks in Victoria under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 and Heritage Act 1995.