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[Ashmore Trip 1] Day 14: In which the whole ship is soundly defeated by an island called Adele

June 4, 2013

[This is the fourteenth 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.]


We arrived at Adele ~06:00, and were ashore by 06:30. Adele is noted for its crocodiles, sharks, and tall prickly grasses.

Crossing from the tenders to the shore (about 60 metres through mid-calf deep water) was a little unnerving: bow waves were visible all over the shallows from animals cruising sub-surface, but we could only tell what species’ bow-wave it was when they got close. My principal fear here is crocodiles – I have never been so glad to see many (small) sharks in the water with me as I was today!

The plan was to walk in with our heavy gear to near the Lesser Frigatebird colonies, and spend a couple of days putting GPS loggers on frigatebirds, before moving camp to nearer the boobies and repeating with them. The walk in was tough – we were carrying a lot of gear through tall Spinifex grass, in ~40°C heat and high humidity.

By the time we got to the frigatebird colony, it was clear we would not be able to deploy loggers. We had passed ~5 Brown Booby nests on the way to the frigatebird colony, and when the birds were startled from their nests, the eggs were immediately set upon by Silver Gulls. Silver Gulls have increased hugely in number in this part of Australia – it is thought to be because of the easy access to food at the Broome tip, which keeps their numbers artificially high.

Lesser Frigatebirds, here, nest in colonies comprising ~50 nests. If we had captured any frigates for GPS tracking, the whole colony would have flown off. The gulls would then have caused utter carnage, and we would have been unable to recapture our bird (who would likely abandon its nest after a nest-failure) to retrieve the GPS unit. The day was, therefore, a bust.

We spent a couple of hours sitting around, discussing options and collecting invertebrates for the Western Australian Museum – during which process we discovered that Adele has both ticks and abundant mosquitoes. We had thought those parasites to be absent and rare, respectively.

In the end, we simply walked the hour back out, carrying most of the gear.

We have a team of two rat-management workers from DEC with us, monitoring the Kiore population before the October eradication. Today, they abandoned their plans in the extreme weather. Tomorrow morning, since seabird work is called off, I will help them to lay trap-lines. Kiwis helping people get rid of rats from islands is one of the few nationalistic traditions I can whole-heartedly support!

Water consumption on-island (06:30 -> 13:00, mostly spent sitting): 5 litres. My 3-litre camelback was already empty by the time we arrived at the frigatebird colony.


From → Scientist

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