Roaming Down Under

A curious sign at Oatlands, Tas

An unusual warning sign, whose meaning may not be immediately obvious

This unusual sign was seen in Oatlands, Tasmania. Even in the context of its surroundings, its meaning was far from obvious. Does the sign warn of low-flying winged people, or indicate a meeting point for angels, or is that what Oatlands residents look like?

An unusual warning sign at Oatlands, Tasmania

I can decipher most odd signs, and I "get" cryptic crosswords, but this sign left me scratching my head. After speaking to some local people (who looked nothing like the four-armed beast on the sign) I found enlightenment. The general consensus was that the sign warns of deep water!

Apparently the wavy line at shoulder level represents the water surface, and the black bit beneath the person represents the bottom of the lake. The gap between person and lake bottom is meant to indicate deep water.

The sign is located near the edge of Lake Dulverton, or at least where the lake edge would be if it was anywhere near full of water. And that's what made this sign curiously cryptic - the absence of any water nearby. Lake Dulverton was mostly dry at the time, which is not unusual. Had it been full of water, the sign might have made more sense.

The sign in context: beside the dry lakebed of Lake Dulverton

The sign in context: beside the dry lakebed of Lake Dulverton

I went searching for confirmation and found the "National Aquatic and Recreational Signage Style Manual". This mighty tome indicates that the sign at Oatlands is a standard sign for warning of deep water ... although in many decades of exploring Australia I've never seen any other examples of it.

A deep water sign used in other countries

This seldom-seen Australian 'standard' sign differs from the deep water sign commonly used overseas (example at right), and which, to me, is much more easily understood.

A picture may be worth a thousand words ... but sometime a few words can be very helpful too. If deep water is a genuine hazard, then adding "deep water" - words most children can understand - might be more helpful in preventing accidents than just a cryptic graphic most people haven't seen before.

More helpful, maybe, but not as much fun for the imagination than speculating about low-flying winged people.