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A curious sign at Oatlands, Tas

An unusual warning sign at Oatlands, Tasmania

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?

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 concensus 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 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.

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, but had it been full of water, the sign might have made more sense. Perhaps ... this seldom-seen Australian standard sign differs from the deep water sign commonly used overseas, and which, to me, is much more easily understood.

A deep water sign used in other countries
A deep water sign
used in other countries

If deep water is a genuine hazard, then adding the words "deep water" - words most children can understand - might be more helpful than 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.

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