Puzzle in the pages

Pick up a copy of Riddledom by David Astle from Smithton LINC to read more quirky riddles and tales. Picture: Ashleigh Force.

Tale. Togari local Noel Quilliam has recently read a book riddled with talk of Circular Head, which had him wondering, ‘Why should the Captain of a vessel going to Woolnorth leave here with a good appetite?’ Noel shares with Chronicle readers his journey through the pages.

How could a globe trotting Sydneysider writing a book in 2015 come up with a riddle so specific to Circular Head geographically and historically?

In his book David Astle claims the riddle appeared in Nellie’s book of Australian riddles in 1877. By the way the answer made sense to me as soon as I saw it.

So let’s quote from Astles’ book, Riddledom (pages 162 to 163), about our Captain . . .

“My favourite word in this question is ‘here’. I love the brazen sense of home where X marks the spot, and any outsider must realign their compass. ‘Here’ is Stanley, of course, a fishing port protected by a black volcanic plug known as The Nut. Stuck on the edge of Bass Strait, the town has dug its knuckles into the earth, clinging on for dear life. The Roaring Forties, as the gales are dubbed, can blow an oilskin inside out. Hence a captain plying west to Woolnorth, at the top left corner of the Tasmanian wedge, would be wise to hug to the shoreline, keeping alee of Tin Kettle Islands. If you’re still not convinced, Woolnorth has been renamed since this riddle first saw daylight, reverting to Matthew Flinders’ opinion of the place: Cape Grim.

“Go there now and you’ll be stalked by the chopping blades of 60 turbines. The Woolnorth Windfarm has prime position, harnessing the gales that howl across the Southern Ocean. The average blasts are cataclysmic. Hang on to your hat if you visit, as the wind seldom dips below 30 kilometres per hour, owing to the open run the air enjoys across the oceans. Like a long-range missile, the wind skips Africa altogether, hurling its energy onto the first landfall in 10,000 kilometres.

“A seasoned captain approaching the cape would aim for the Tin Kettles. The proven route of 1877, according to Nellie’s riddle, threaded between two granite islands within that archipelago, home to muttonbirds and metallic skinks. The islands resemble two steamed dumplings floating on the water, according to Nellie’s quip, and answer: A Captain should be hungry when heading for Woolnorth, as he will have to get through two Doughboys.

“I’ve checked Google Images, and the likeness resonates. The islands are twin chunks of the same loaf, both wearing frills of Bass Strait foam. Who needs a treasure map to confirm such gold, when a riddle selected by Stanley’s Sixth Annual Literary Committee (1877) does all the navigating for us.”

I’ve searched for Nellie’s book in vain but if you are fast enough you will find Riddledom in our local library.

Postscript from Astle himself: “As for the reasons you may be stymied in seeking Nellie’s so-called riddle book, the actual publication you need to hunt down is the volume generated by Stanley’s Sixth Annual Literary Committee in 1877: a document I found in the dusty crannies of State Library Victoria.

“A hen’s tooth, but it does exist.”

Do you have an interesting tale to share with fellow Chronicle readers? Email news@chchronicle.com.au

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