Wednesday, July 06, 2005

On Lizard Island

From my travel log 17 August 1998
Lizard Island, the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

From Cairns airport I took a light plane to Lizard Island, one of the interesting islands on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. I was on an expedition sponsored by the Australian Geographic Society. I was with my skipper Juan Cruz of Venezuela (who is now at PhD student at Sydney University).

The plane landed on the sandy airstrip and we disembarked. The sandy beaches are postcard perfect. This is paradise. The island is covered in scrub that tells me about the exposed nature of the island.

The task now is to describe the patterns of distribution, of life, the ecological relations of the animals of the shore, all a mystery. The shore as Steinbeck and Ricketts always knew will hold its secrets very well and give it up very slowly, as slow as the motion of the nerite on the rocks.

Surprises are in store and at the end a better understanding of nature is inevitable. The question is whether this will make me plunge the depths of my being.

18 August 1998

With good old Juan as my skipper, we took the aluminium boat to Lizard Head. I laid down three 200 m transects. Saw five species of Littorines with the scabra species most abundant at these exposed shores. The dove shell Pyrene ocellata is most abundant at the oyster belt. Probably they seek shelter from the sun’s rays or they really prey on the oysters. Probably not, these snails are supposed to be worm eaters.

Lower on the shore I found the nerites, chamaeleon wasn’t there but albicilla was. I also found

19 August 1998

In the early morning before the wind began to blow hard, I took the boat myself to Osprey islet where I was buzzed two nesting raptors and by a heap of sea birds. This is a rookery! I saw a spider conch, murexes and Typha snails.

20 August 1998

Sailed to Palfrey Island at dawn. We landed on the reef flat. This is an untouched reef flat for people are not allowed to cast anchor here unless with special permission from the marine parks authority. Wonderful! The shore is littered with shells, from strombs to cones, mitres, olives and murexes. There are crabs everywhere and the corals and giant clams exposed to the sun at low tide.

21 August 1998

Shore leave. We spent the day cleaning the lab and watching videos. I took a walk towards the highest point of the island and made acquaitance with the famous goannas of this island.

22 August 1998

End of the trip. Last day on the island, a slight drizzle for the seasons are to change. The austral winter is ending and so with it the cool air and clear skies. The diamond stars at night will be covered with tropical haze from the moist tropical air that harbrings the coming summer monsoon.

We are done with the work and all is fine. Sunset has come and the skies turn red, a firery red. Thus the seasons turn and life dances to their rhythm. All is right.

Whereever the trip takes you
To scrubland and bush
To remote seashores, high mountain
Amidst ancient rock framed in recent sand
Lose yourself then and be one.

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