Day 3 |
Apr 24, 2014

Talbot Bay, Kimberleys, Australia

By Uli Erfurth, Marine Biologist
Co-ordinates: Lat. 16-21.37 S- Long: 123-57.20 E
Weather: Sunny with mild breeze
Air temperature: 36 °C
Pressure: 1028 hPa
Wind: 3 knots

At 06:15 a.m. the sun rises over the ridges of Talbot Bay heating up Silver Discoverer’s brand new Gym, causing plenty of extra sweat for guests Alex, Sharon and Lucie (and me). After 60 minutes and 20 km on one of the four gym bicycles (there are more toys on Deck 7, e.g. two leg machines and weights), followed by an extensive cold shower session, I join the expedition staff for a rich “emperor’s” breakfast (“king’s lunch, beggar’s dinner”).
The first Zodiacs start towards the famous Horizontal waterfalls and into Cyclone Bay at 8:00 a.m., bound to embark new guests at 10.00 a.m.
I am scheduled to drive the Zodiac “Bounty”, by then with 8 guests onboard. Avoiding a mutiny my 60 HP-powered vessel readily makes it through the first gap -although thousands of tons of white water are rushing through a 20 m wide and 8 m deep trench trying to keep the “ Bounty” from entering a placid ‘lake area’ right behind it.

Steering a zodiac precisely in these conditions takes some effort, and just when you think as a driver you have made it, there is even a bigger challenge ahead: Horizontal waterfall “2”. Rocky cliffs narrowing down to the length of two Zodiacs and the tremendous waves and eddies created by underwater rocks and holes are a scary sight for any visitor. Beginning to understand this challenge, my fellow expeditioneers start to grab my zodiac and try to toss it around. I feel a little bit like Greek hero Ulysses just having passed cliffs with multiple-headed monster Scylla on top, now running into and coping with giant maelstrom Charybdis around the corner. “Bounty” struggles, but finally she skips through the gap at full throttle. I turn to see the other Zodiacs make it through as well. Cameras click away. This is where the first group had spotted a 3.5 meter resident saltwater croc at a rock -watching the scene as well. And these guys actually also swim through the narrows at times…
Going back through the gaps with the outgoing tide at 7 or 8 knots a few minutes later is a navigational stroll in the park. The sharp rocks around us are covered with Rock oysters and stained with dark-green algae and cyanobacteria. We can exactly tell the high tide mark above us. Around 10 meters is the maximum tidal change at king tides, then creating ripping currents of 15 knots or more- yet speedboats (there is a base near-by) with 900 HP(!!!) will have plenty of fun going through the gaps, with screaming tourists holding on firmly to the handles.

On our tour into Cyclone Bay we then spot a magnificent red-brown Brahminy Kite, and - as the mega tick of the day - a Short-eared Rock-wallaby. These cute marsupials are really hard to spot, perfectly camouflaged and always hiding from the blistering sun in the shade of the red Kimberley rocks.

After two hours we return to the ship and leave Talbot Bay behind, sailing through a beautiful set of isles and going further up the coast. At 14:00 we listen to the geological lecture “Shaping a Timeless Landscape” by our Expedition Leader Mick. He explains to us in detail the results of the crustal collision of two “croutons” in the early ocean soup 1.8 billion years ago and the following geological events, ending his eloquent Kimberley-talk with the words “born by fire, bent by pressure, carved by ice, drowned by sea, and burnt by sun.”

An early Recap and Briefing at 17:15, followed by a First-timers’ reception, plus a superb dinner lead to the end to this great third day.
While Assistant Expedition Leader Tim and I decide to “see the gym” one more time before going to bed, some of our guests -making their way out of the restaurant onto the decks- spot Bottlenose dolphins just next to the ship feeding on fish.
Can’t wait to explore Prince Regent River tomorrow!