Skull Rock

On 12 May 2023, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom debuted, sending large segments of the video-gamer population into ecstatics. TotK is a sequel to Breath of the Wild, the revolutionary 2017 Zelda entry that many consider one of the greatest games ever created, if not the greatest. In addition to the usual Zelda fare, Breath treated players to an incredibly detailed open world, filled with towering mountains, glistening lakes, lush valleys, and sprawling deserts. Developers seemingly placed as much attention on the gorgeous setting as they did on the mechanics, puzzles, and quests.

Tears returns to the same world, though things are a bit different (and larger). Though I have no researched evidence, I’m certain many aspects of the game’s planet have been inspired by real places.

One such in-game location might be a spot near Goron City, called the Isle of Rebac.

Isle of Rebac in Breath of the Wild

The Isle of Rebac is situated within Darunia Lake, composed completely of lava. To reach its shrine – one of many key locations in the game – one must propel a mining car or paraglide to the island. As the player reaches the spit, the Isle reveals itself as a hollowed rock dome, hiding the shrine within.

For a Zelda fan, a spot in Australia, lovingly called Skull Rock, immediately connects to the Isle of Rebac.

Technically named Cleft Island, this granite dome is part of the Anser island chain, sitting in the Bass Strait, which separates Tasmania from mainland Australia. And this rock is a beauty!

Bass Strait labeled in blue
Skull Rock - photo by Amplitur

Skull Island is relatively tiny – just 1,000 feet long and 700 feet wide – but its geometry is enthralling. Simultaneously featuring the smooth lines of a dome and the sharp breaks of a fractal, this rock looks like half an egg with its yolk missing.

Or perhaps the skull of a Cyclops.

The cavern is massive, measuring about 400 feet long, 100 feet high, and 100 feet deep. According to explorer Neil Oliver, “you could fit the Sydney Opera House inside it.”

The cave likely formed thanks to millennia of wave action during a period when ocean levels were higher, exacerbated by wind erosion.

Oliver and his film crew are just one of two groups ever known to have visited Skull Rock. Locals like to claim that fewer people have walked on Cleft Island than on the moon. Despite being just miles from the shore, the approach to the island is notoriously gnarly. Bass Strait features rough waters, the island contains no harbor or beach, and the cavern is flanked below by 50 feet of vertical cliffs. In 2017, Oliver’s team took a helicopter above the island and abseiled to the cave.  Prior to that visit, no one had stepped foot on Skull Rock since 1972.

Skull Rock from above - photo by Promhelis
Close-up - photo by Obscuravibes

The first documented visit to the island did not venture with the luxury of a helicopter.

Instead, they exited a boat and climbed a chimney on the back side of the rock, before lowering themselves into the cave.

The explorers had hoped to find unknown flora or even evidence of strange critters since it was likely the island had not been infiltrated by humans (at least since the last ice age). Instead, they found the interior to be too inhospitable to anything novel, fostering only the hardiest plants of the region. Saltwater spray formed mounds that encased the remains of birds, though the team did see live avians inhabiting the rock.

Though humans had not likely trod this locale before the team, the most intriguing discovery was human-made. No, it wasn’t a shrine from Zelda, but the origin might be just as romantic.

According to Digby Gotts (great name), they “found five or six nodular lumps that looked and felt like iron ore but seemed out of place on a granite island. They proved to be lumps of heavily oxidised and roughly cast iron.” Fitting a place named Skull Rock, he added, “The only plausible explanation for their presence in this inaccessible cave is that they were the remnants of a ball fired from a cannon, but by whom must remain a mystery.”

Had pirates used this place for firing practice?

The entry chimney - photo by Digby Gotts
Cast iron lump from cave rear. 77 mm long - Digby Gotts

Today, Skull Rock is part of Wilsons Promontory National Park, Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park, and Wilsons Promontory Islands Important Bird Area.

Venturers need not be as valiant as the two exploratory groups to get a close look at this marvel. In good weather and seas, boat tours now manage to approach the isle, offering a viewpoint fit for the Gorons of Zelda.

No paraglider necessary.

Further Reading and Exploration

Skull Rock: the Inside Story – Digby Gotts/I Am Footloose and Free

Neil Oliver shares new Coast stories and goes places few others have ever ventured –

Skull Rock (Cleft Island) – Atlas Obscura

Wilsons Promontory National Park – Official Website

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