Backpackers dice with death at perilous Far North pool
YOUNG travellers are courting catastrophe by cooling off in one of the Far North's deadliest swimming spots, blatantly ignoring warning signs.
A trio of male backpackers was photographed on Saturday swimming at Devil's Pool, about 250m downstream at Babinda Boulders, about 65km south of Cairns.
The narrow stretch of creek, known as the Chute area, has claimed the lives of 17 people since the 1950s - 16 of them being young men.
Devil's Pool is also steeped in Aboriginal legend, said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman who lures young men into the water.
The last person to have died at Devil's Pool was Tasmanian Naval officer James Bennett, 23, who went swimming with two friends in the creek on November 30, 2008, and drowned.
A sign at the entrance to Devil's Pool Walk at Babinda Boulders clearly warns visitors that "this creek has claimed many lives."
Despite the death toll, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Cairns chief superintendent Adam Gwin said it was obvious people were still not getting the message about the dangers of swimming at Devil's Pool.
"There's not only the spiritual context of the area, there's also the scientific part of this particular environment, why it's so dangerous with its rock formations," he said.
"They create certain dangerous undercurrents and what we refer to as an eddy, which can create a lot of confusion and a particularly hazardous environment, when we have large amounts of water flowing through that area.
"So sure, the area may be inviting, but there is a lot of hidden danger there that you can't see from the surface."
While the creek level was relatively low on the weekend, he said the creek was prone to flash-flooding.
"Considering the catchment size and catchment area, it doesn't take a lot of rainfall to actually get a large amount of water in a small amount of time," he said.
"It may not stay there for a long period, depending on the amount of rain we have, but certainly torrential or short bursts of rain can create a very quick hazard, as well."
Cairns Regional Council recently spent $1 million on upgrading viewing platforms, signage fencing and creek access at Babinda Boulders, which was completed in May.
This included installing new signage at the entrance to the Devil's Pool Walk, and at two new viewing platforms overlooking the creek.
Division 1 Councillor Brett Moller said there was only so much the council could do to prevent people from swimming in the creek.
"The signage is all there, but people climb over it, and down an embankment," he said.
"I've been down there, and I've seen people call out to people - mainly backpackers - to warn them about the dangers, and to get out of there, and they're just ignored."
He said the council also didn't want to create an "eyesore" with too much signage in an otherwise beautiful area.
"You don't want to take away the natural beauty of the place with a proliferation of signage," he said.
"But there's certainly enough warnings out there (about Devil's Pool) in hostels and backpacker adventure companies: I think they all provide that message of safety, but it just needs to be reinforced."