In the middle of nowwhere off the eastern coast of Australia is Balls Pyramid, a dramatic triangular chunk of basalt rock sticking 550m out of the ocean 23km off the coast of Lord Howe Island, is officially the tallest sea stack in the world.
The remains of a shield volcano millions of years old, it was discovered in 1788 by Captain Henry Lidgbird Ball.
Part of the southeast edge, Winkelstein’s Steeple, was given that name by an unsuccessful team of climbers as they battled with the best of nature’s obstacles – they sang the song “Balls to Mr Winkelstein” constantly throughout their frustrated attempt to summit.
Balls Pyramid was finally conquered on February 14, 1965. A few had previously attempted the climb, including a young adventurer by the name of Dick Smith. He failed on that occasion due to a shortage of supplies, but returned in 1980 to complete his mission. There were other difficulties to face besides the sheer rock face, including venomous centipedes, sea urchin spines, barnacles and disturbed local wildlife returning to their nests only to discover sleeping climbers. Climbing is now highly restricted, but it can be view up close from cruise boats and is a world class diving and fishing spot.
Where // 23km off the southeast coast of Lord Howe Island, NSW. (02) 6563 2114, www.lordhoweisland.info
Balls Pyramid is the sole remaining habitat of a species of giant stick insect that was pronounced extinct 80 years ago. Rediscovered in 2001, the Lord Howe Island Phasmid is said to be the rarest insect in the world, and possibly the rarest invertebrate.