Our Beach – a personal story from Anne Hynes, Cape Arnhem marine conservation tour participant 2016
Our Beach, Wanuwoy, looked as pristine as it always should. The 3½ km marine debris collection was complete and we were proud of our work. As a reward, the young Rangers slipped off to the Mangroves and caught a generous amount of Mud Mussels for us to experience. A bumpy ride to a little Cove further North and the BBQ was fired up to cook the Mussels – Yum!
We arrived in Nhulunbuy on Sunday afternoon, to the 3-bedroom cabin used for volunteers like us, visiting Customs Officers or Rangers. The cabin was beautifully clean and had everything we needed. Rod, our Team Leader, was very skilled with our meal planning as we had Vegetarians, Gluten Free and Omnivores to feed. Rod was a great cook.
If you are not so keen on long road trips you might consider a flight in or out of Nhulunbuy. It is a big, big drive and not the most comfortable, though it is the perfect time to get to know your new team mates.
When travelling to and from the Survey Beach, it was a great idea to rotate between the vehicles as the Rangers are a wealth of ancient knowledge. Banula would tell us when the yellow Kapok flower is blooming, or when it’s time to look for fresh water crocodile eggs. When the Kurrajong is in blossom, it’s time to hunt for stingray. And venomous snakes have round pupils and non-venomous snakes have slit pupils. (Not that I intend to get close enough to find out!)
All through the year the Rangers are burning off strategically in preparation for the Wet Season. Even around Darwin you will notice this. So, the bush does not get the opportunity for a whole lot of growth between burn offs. Fires created by lightning strikes are so much more dangerous and of course unpredictable. The Ancients would know when the Wet was brewing, stock up on food and tuck themselves up in caves close by to avoid the threat of fire.
Friday was our Fun Day. Rod drove us to Yirrkala – a small arty community 20 minutes from Nhulunbuy. Yirrkala has an extensive Aboriginal Art Gallery and Museum brimming with treats to purchase. We spent time sitting watching the Elder Ladies creating their traditional paintings. Grinding the paint colours on a rock with a small amount of water to get just the correct shade they required. These ladies were of quite an age, though their sharp eyes and steady hands were creating such fine detailed pieces of artwork.
We had collected 4½ tonne of fishing nets, buoys, thongs, cigarette lighters, water bottles etc, though no Spanish Doubloons or buried treasure I’m afraid. All this debris had washed down from Asia and Indonesia through the Arafura Sea, then swirled around the Gulf for a while until the current and winds had dumped the debris on the North East Coast of Arnhem Land. Such a shame… but we left our Wanuwoy beach looking clean as a whistle!
The Arnhem Land Debris Collection project was a wonderful experience – to see that beautiful part of our amazing country, to do something that makes a difference to the environment and to meet and learn from some exceptional people was a real treat.