Last Sunday, when we arrived at South Coogee for my traditional birthday, salt water swim, the sea looked like it was pumping a big swell. As we walked towards the pathway above the coast, I expected to look down on a submerged Ivo Rowe Rock Pool.
But happily we found an almost tranquil scene, despite the movement of the open sea.
“When’s high tide,” called Bruce, heading down the stairs. “10.46. About an hour ago,” I said, “so our timing should be good.”
I stopped to read a sign titled, ‘A Platform of Potholes and Pools’, which acknowledges Ivo Rowe, the South Coogee identity, who from the 1930s worked to improve the pool.
I glanced down at the pool and wondered if Ivo erected the timber posts now weathering on the sea edge, and perhaps connected a chain?
And then I returned to the sign explaining how his pool and smaller ones on the rock platform were usually formed by potholing. It said potholing happens as waves and their backwash grind the platform with rock pieces. Stones are caught in a depression, then swirled around to deepen into a pothole. As the hole grows it traps larger rocks which form a larger hole.
I liked the idea that the Ivo Rowe Pool was naturally formed. Well, except for some minor alterations in 1965 when the Randwick Apex Club enlarged it by filling a channel through the edge. I also like its tear-drop shape, although from the side it also resembles a large fish.
When I finished reading about the sea stars, anemones, small fish, molluscs and colourful waving seaweed, that live in the Ivo Rowe and smaller pools, I stepped carefully down the slippery, water-covered stairs. Halfway down, a sign in several languages warned that two people had died fishing off this well-known blackfish spot, and advised “to check conditions and if in doubt do not fish”.
When I reached the bottom, Bruce was already plunging in. He came up with gasp but after his second duck under he declared it was actually quite pleasant in.
“I think it’s about 17 or 18,” I said, pleased it was going to be warmer than my recent South Australian swims. As I lowered myself in, it felt a bit cold but nothing like the chill of the Southern Ocean and once I was under I knew I was going to enjoy being in.
Less than four strokes of freestyle and we reached the shallow end where the pool narrows into the tear-drop shape and oyster shells, limpets and blue and zebra periwinkles cling to the sandstone rock.
We swam back to the deeper part and were surprised by a set of bigger waves tumbling into the pool.
The white water spilled over me like bubbles of champagne and I whooped in delight.
And then the water went still again and we looked through our goggles to the bottom where sea urchins clung to the multi-coloured rocks and silver shells glittered in shafts of underwater light. There were no small fish but I spotted a crab and pink coralline algae hiding under a rock.
And then another set of waves crashed onto the edge and spilled more bubbles into the pool.
“Doesn’t it feel lovely when it trickles over you,” I said to Bruce.
“Yes,” he said and we both agreed we were in no hurry to get out of our perfect plunge pool.
When we finally extricated ourselves and were replaced by a floating man, I thought I couldn’t think of a nicer way to spend my birthday than among the champagne bubbles and tranquility of the Ivo Rowe Pool.
PS: Just like Simon of oceanpoolsnsw.net.au we enjoyed a delicious post-swim lunch with a Coonawarra white wine at the Lion & Buffalo cafe up the road from the pool at 203 Malabar Road South Coogee. Highly recommend!
Ivor Rowe Rock Pool is below the Eastern Beaches Coastal Walk, Bunya Parade, South Coogee.