Day 2 |
May 03, 2014

Day at Sea

By Brad Siviour, Marine Biologist
Weather: Fine and sunny
Air Temperature: 32°C
Pressure: 1004 hPa
Wind: SE 5 knots

This morning we woke to a light breeze and flat calm seas as we steadily made our crossing over the Timor Sea. There were a few people up on deck early this morning, and we were fortunate to witness a pod of around 50 Spinner Dolphins putting on an acrobatic display only meters from the ship. The dolphins were leaping out of the water one after the other, doing backflips and performing a characteristic ‘spinning’ display for which they are renowned.

The conditions were perfect for spotting other marine life, too, including the flying fish which are very prolific in the region. Flying fish spend the majority of their lives within the top few meters of the water column, feeding on small crustaceans and other large zooplankton. As Silver Discoverer steamed along the ship scared the fish, forcing them to leap out of the water and to glide along the surface in an attempt to evade the 5000 ton mass of steel. This gave us a good opportunity to see how flying fish escape from their large pelagic predators of the deep, and made for some great photographic opportunities.

At 0930 this morning we were given a voyage overview by Mick Fogg, our Expedition Leader. I was very excited to see some new destinations on the itinerary, as I’ve been sailing the Kimberley Coast for the past 3 years now and have always wanted to explore new areas. Following this, Lecturer Thomas Hammerich gave us a presentation entitled “When Worlds Collide.” Thomas gave us a great insight into the geology and volcanism of the Pacific Ring of Fire. It was fascinating to hear how the Hawaiian Island chain was formed by a single hot spot, and that the eruption of Toba 74,000 years ago caused 6 years of volcanic winter and may have been the stimulus for humans to emigrate from Africa to other regions of the globe.

After lunch, Lecturer and bird expert Malcolm Turner give us a very entertaining presentation about birds of the Kimberley Coast, entitled “Kimberley Birds of Land and Sea.” Birds are the dominant form of wildlife we can find along the coast. Malcolm gave a great insight into what species we can expect to see and shared a few hints and tips on how and where they can be seen.

At 1700 this afternoon, Expedition Leader Mick Fogg gave us a history lesson on the exploration of the Australian coast, entitled “Footprints on a Forgotten Land.” The lure of spice such as nutmeg, cloves and pepper and the need to evade Ottoman blockades made Spanish and Portuguese explore the sea routes to East Asia and the Moluccas. Yet it was the Dutch Willem Janszoon to be the first European to see the coast of “Terra Australis” when he sailed from Batavia in 1606 to discover new spice islands for the Netherlands East Indies. And so a tumultuous tale of further discovery, conquest, betrayal, bloodshed, mapping and mutiny on the northern Australian coastline began.

On arrival to Leti Island at 1730, a Zodiac was lowered onto the water and I went ashore with the purser and two Indonesian agents to clear into and out of the country as part of our technical stop. Once formalities were out of the way, we headed back to the Silver Discoverer to watch the sun drop below the horizon and light up the clouds above, making for a spectacular sunset. The Captain turned the ship around and we steamed away from Leti Island; next stop Wyndham!