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[Ashmore Trip 1] Day 12: Leaving Ashmore

May 30, 2013

[This is the twelfth in a series of ‘Ashmore Trip 1’ posts, essentially diary entries. Internet was unavailable at the Ashmore Reef, so they are being presented one-day-per-day now that I am back in Melbourne.]


Another early start today – into tenders at 03:00 for an 03:15 start. G and I banded an additional 19 Bridled Terns before dawn, which takes me to a respectable sample size for that species. We were off at 10:20 on the rising tide, after bleeding some additional Masked and Brown Boobies, and recapturing some more Lesser Frigatebird GPS loggers.

We are now underway to Cartier, a sand cay some 60 kilometers South-East of the Ashmore Reef. We’ll anchor for the Counting Team to do an hour’s survey, and a swim for the rest of us, then sailing again all night.

Our next major stop will be Adele Island, where we will stay for four days. Because it is closer inshore to Australia, there are saltwater crocodiles on Adele, and stinging jellyfish. Also, abundant large sharks. For this reason, we will not be able to swim on Adele, and are encouraged to avoid any water greater than ankle-depth, especially if it is cloudy (and would conceal a crocodile).

The other notable feature of Adele is its tidal range – up to an eight metre tidal fluctuation is observed. Because of the extreme tidal currents, our day-plan will be completely controlled by the tide. Effectively, we must wait for high slack tide in order to get on or off the island.

The *other* notable thing about Adele is that it is in line for a rodent eradication, to be executed this October. The introduced rodent to be eliminated is the Kiore, or Pacific Rat (Rattus exulans). Although this species exists in New Zealand, I have never seen one alive, as they are competed with and excluded by Rattus rattus and possibly Rattus norwegicus, which are both also on the NZ mainland, so R. exulans is very rare. It will be interesting to see one – I may see if I can take one to skeletonise.

New species handled today: Masked Booby (chick).

Update @ 17:00:

Stopped in at Cartier Island. Shore Team went to count birds, R1 and I went for a quick snorkel. Was followed by 3 sea snakes (they like bright colours, and my fins are yellow). Saw a small green turtle, white-tipped reef shark, and many fish I cannot identify. Cartier was a munitions dump, so a 5 nautical mile exclusion zone applies, and the marine life is undisturbed. Went ashore briefly – Cartier is small (scarcely 200m total length), with no vegetation, but is abundantly covered in turtle tracks and Nautilus shells. I secured myself a broken one, with its colour still bright.

The rest of the shore party had collected beach debris while on the island – one of the researchers is very interested in plastic pollution, and Cartier, being within an exclusion zone, presents a good opportunity to estimate the rate of plastic drift onshore without people dropping it directly or cleaning it up. A large plastic bagful was collected – I presume we’ll repeat this exercise on later trips.

Now: sailing overnight to Browse and Cafarelli.

Further update: According to our field guide, the sea snakes today were Olive Sea Snakes, regarded as ‘Dangerously Venomous’, and ‘often considered aggressive’. They are also considered (anecdotal report only): “the most dangerous sea-snake in the world”. Huh. There’s a thing.


From → Scientist

  1. Stella permalink

    Ooooh, how do you skeletonise things?

    • Generally by boiling it until the meat falls off, then leaving it in the garden until it stops smelling. I’d really like to try dermestid beetles, though!

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