An Expedition Excerpt from 29 May 2023
by Guest Lecturers Ray Andrews and Sandy Scott
We woke this morning at Winyalkin Island, to the sight of a planned burn on the hillside which formed a thin streak of glowing orange. Today expeditioners had the opportunity to take a helicopter up to Mitchell Plateau to see the stepped falls of the Mitchell River as it dropped towards sea level.
For those not flying, we visited our first art site for the day called two kangaroos, with Mel as our skipper and Dave, Ray and Sandy providing the commentary en-route. Sandy pointed out the dolerite intrusions as we passed by Palm Island where tall Livistona nasomphila Palms dominated the ridgelines.
This afternoon’s Xplorer trip was to the best art site so far. We had a dry landing and a short walk to the art site. We spent the best part of an hour lying on our backs examining the art. This site was only rediscovered in 2021. There were tantalizing images of extinct thylacines, kangaroos, fish, and Wandjina and the floor of the site was littered with fragments of shellfish and charcoal. A five meter long polychrome or Straight Part spirit figure with a feathered head dress dominated the site. It had a red ochre silhouette with a yellowish/orange limonite infill.
We returned to the ship for a quick turnaround for drinks and canapes on the beach of Winyalkin Island. Everyone had a wonderful time on the beach, with champagne and a little dancing in the sand when the most amazing spectacle occurred. When ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ started playing, a flat-backed turtle decided to join the party. The female Flat Backed Turtle seemed to be on a mission and crawled straight past the erected gazebo and up above the highest tide mark to lay her eggs. Within 20 minutes she was digging her hole to the amazed look of all the passengers and crew, who all agreed that this was a most remarkable sight. About 45 minutes into her first leaving the water, the female turtle started her movements to lay her eggs into the pit she had dug. We could all see the abundance of eggs near her cloaca (birthing tube) but she managed to keep the laid eggs well hidden. As darkness fell, we packed up our beach party gear and left her to it. She was last seen rotated 90 degrees in her pit laying more eggs into a newly scraped hole. This will be an experience that we will cherish forever!