Day 8 Land ahoy!: Chantelle Cook

By October 3rd, 2017


Photo: Bottle nose dolphins, credit Katie Walters, printed with permission

Today, we sighted land for the first time in quite a while! Overnight, we hit the tip of Australia and are now heading west through the Torres Strait. This means a very big change in topography and bathymetry. The water is considerably shallow—in some places, we measured it at just 23 metres from the ocean floor. There are tiny islands all around, mostly uninhabited, but some are populated. Some “islands” are a mere spot of sand, some have signal posts with lights on them to warn boats, but others do not. It would be very easy to run aground here! For this reason, at around 15:00 hours we had a pilot, who specialises in the area, come aboard to steer us safely through. It was a much anticipated and watched event on board, as he arrived from a nearby island by boat and climbed the ladder on the side of the ship, James Bond style.

Due to the water depth, the biological indicators, such as fluorometry and dissolved oxygen, were very low, but we did manage to see some cetaceans first thing this morning—a big pod of bottle nose dolphins and some whales. We couldn’t get a close look at the whale characteristics, just a tiny glimpse of the blows, dorsal fin and colour but not enough to make a positive identification. And, of course, with the islands we had a flurry of birds with over 900 birds logged today including noddies and magpie geese!

With the tropics, comes humidity and it is only increasing the further north we head. The outside walls of the ship now have a film of condensation covering them. There was talk about shutting down the air sampling lines, as humidity creeps into air sampling chutes and compromises data.