Little Sandy Island

We have a long sail ahead of us today because we have to be in Fremantle for disembarkation tomorrow morning, but there was still time for one last shore exploration…which meant that breakfast began at 6am. The Expedition Crew set off to ready the island while we were eating.

For a change, we were on one of the first wave of Zodiacs to leave the ship, but we were far from the first to reach the island.

We’d dressed in swimware and brought our snorkeling gear, but it was not to be – our guide Craig told us that they’d closed snorkeling for safety reasons, so we had to content ourselves with enjoying the scenery and the wildlife. There was a small colony of sea lions on the island; they were resting when we arrived, but got more active during our visit.

The truly avid photographers got closer to the sea lions than I would have!

And our guides kept a close eye on things from the Zodiacs.

The island was also home to a number of birds, including Pied Oystercatchers, two kinds of gulls (Silver and Pacific), and at least three kinds of terns (Great Crested, Roseate, and Little).

It had been cloudy since we left the ship, but every so often, the sun managed to peek through.

We saw some of our shipmates enjoying the water and the sun, but then it started to rain a bit and our guide suggested putting away “nice cameras”.

We took the hint and took the next Zodiac back to the ship.

Everyone was back on the ship about an hour ahead of schedule and we set sail for Fremantle. It was smooth sailing for a while, but things got rough during lunch (cutlery went sliding onto the floor a few times and at least one person fell). We were supposed to have a 2pm lecture but the captain came on the PA to suggest that people stay in their cabins, so it’s been postponed. We’re on Deck 4, and spray was hitting our window on a regular basis for a while!

Things have calmed down a little, but it’s still pretty rocky. I guess we’ll have fewer distractions from packing….

We get more than our feet wet, finally!

This morning, we continued sailing to East Wallibi Island for an afternoon on the beach; Meg Urry gave a talk on “Broadening Participation in Science” while we were sailing.

The Zodiac ride to the island was short and smooth (a pleasant change).

We landed and joined the group taking a short walk to explore a bit of the island. We saw a couple of white-bellied sea eagles taking turns guarding their nest.

We had a close encounter with a dragon (see above) and saw a wallaby skull.

After the walk, we finally went snorkeling, but by the time we got into the water, the conditions were less than optimal, and we couldn’t see anything without swimming farther than we were willing.

We took the Zodiac back to the ship for our group reception and sunset; there were clouds in front of the sun, so there was no green flash, but it was a nice sunset nonetheless.

Monkey Mia (Shark Bay)

Today’s plan was to start Zodiac transfers at 6:45 so that everyone who wanted to be on shore to see the 7:45am wild dolphin feeding at Monkey Mia could be there. Breakfast started at 6:15, which meant we were on deck in time to enjoy morning twilight.

Soon after we finished breakfast, we got the word – the ship was running an hour late and departures would start at 7:45. Fortunately, they feed the dolphins three times a day, and we were on shore in plenty of time for the second feeding around 9am. Of course, the dolphins aren’t the only creatures in the water; comorants are very common.

They only feed female dolphins (males get too aggressive); there were a lot swimming just offshore.

Finally, we got to watch them feed one of the dolphins, Piccolo.

After the feeding, we went with Rocky from the Expedition Team on a 3k walk around the beach and the sand dunes. The first bird we saw was a Silver Gull – Rocky called it a “Fish and Chips” bird because it loves to eat scraps from human meals.

The beach was loaded with shells; we weren’t allowed to take any, but we could admire them.

There were a lot of birds on a sand spit a few hundred meters away (it turns into an island at high tide). I saw pelicans, Caspian terns, and many other small birds that Rocky didn’t identify for us.

The path then took us away from the beach and up through a sand dune before returning to the resort area. Along the way, we saw wallaby tracks and a couple of emu (which we gave a wide berth to).

After the walk and a much-needed Magnum bar, we boarded coaches to take us to the Ocean Park Aquarium, where we watched our guide feed rays and sharks, as well as giving us a chance to see a number of the local marine dwellers.

People eat some of the locals, like squid and cod.

Others, like the box fish, lion fish, and blue spotted ray, are poisonous (blue dots and stripes are indicators of fish to avoid; some fish use blue dots to pretend to be poisonous).

We took buses back to the beach and took a short walk before boarding the Zodiac to return to the ship. A pelican had decided to rest for a while in the Dolphin Encounter area, completely disregarding the signs declaring it off-limits.

We got back to the ship in time for lunch; Joel Weisberg gave a lecture on “Optical and Non-Optical Telescopes”, and then we repaired to the Panorama Deck to enjoy sunset (even if there wasn’t a green flash). The crescent moon and Venus were visible a few minutes after sunset.

It was a busy day – I even closed my watch’s Move ring for the first time since getting on the ship!

Success is what you make it!

Today, we had a choice between a manta ray snorkeling expedition that left the ship at 7am and was advertised as being for “advanced snorkelers” or the 8, 9, or 10am trip to Coral Bay for a glass-bottom boat ride and some beach snorkeling. We chose the 9am trip to the glass-bottom boat.

The ride over on the Zodiac was smooth, though disembarkation was tricky because the waves were breaking hard on the beach and the bus ride to Coral Bay was quick. I’d accidentally left my phone on the ship and had chosen not to bring my big camera, so I was free to just look around. When we arrived at the beach where the expedition team had set up shop, we got the bad news – the first two glass-bottom boat trips had been canceled because of the high waves (you’d have to swim aboard) and the last one didn’t look too promising.

So we walked the few hundred meters to the Coral Bay Shopping Arcade to see if we could find anything interesting. The newsagent had some Total Eclipse t-shirts (a slight exaggeration), but only in sizes 2XL and larger, so we passed. Diane found a t-shirt she liked and I found a waterproof iPhone case and a little pouch with an aboriginal design that I will find some use for.

There was a small supermarket in the arcade; they sold food, bait, fishing gear, camping gear, hardware, and t-shirts (but no eclipse shirts). I stocked up on XXX mints.

We walked back to the drop-off point and weren’t surprised to learn that the 11am cruise had been cancelled, too, so we took the bus back to the beach and the Zodiac. It was a wet trip back, but we’re here in time for lunch!

The rest of the day is quiet; the manta ray people should be back around 4, and Joe Henrich is giving a lecture on “Understanding Human Diversity” at 5.

Maybe we’ll get wetter tomorrow. :-)

Totally awesome!

Today was the big day! We were out on the Panorama Deck in time to see the very first bite of the eclipse and stayed there until well after totality.

Before totality, we watched the Moon chew up the Sun.

It got slowly darker and darker as we neared totality; about a minute before totality, the change sped up and things got really strange. And then, totality! I wanted to see the eclipse with my own eyes (63 seconds is not very long!) but I did take a few photos during totality, including the one above.

Venus had become visible a couple of minutes before totality; Jupiter was pretty easy to see during totality.

And then we were nearly at the end.

The diamond ring marked the end; next time, I’ll stop my camera way down instead of letting it do its own thing.

The staff was very happy!

We were OK, too (they taught us the sign to use during snorkeling, but we haven’t gotten into the water yet!).