Day 7 |
May 18, 2014

Koolama Bay and King George Falls

By Malcolm Turner, Naturalist
Co-ordinates: 13º056' S, 121º19 E'
Weather: Sunny morning light rain in afternoon
Air Temperature: 29ºC
Pressure: 1009 hPa
Wind: light, 10 knot

Guests were presented with a feast of choices for today’s excursions (and breakfast): there was the six hour Zodiac cruise and hike to the top of King George Falls, three and a half hour cruises in the morning and afternoon and two hour cruises to the falls in both the morning and afternoon.

It was my turn to take a two hour morning cruise. We began by floating for a moment reflecting on the story of the Koolama incident which had happened at various points around the bay.
I think the story would make a great movie with a passenger ship complete with band and butlers, bombing by flying boats, heroic action by the charismatic captain, mutiny by officers, dramatic injury and a caring stewardess, rescue by aborigines and a full public enquiry.

We skimmed along the beach of Koolama Bay, pausing for Whimbrels and Pied Oystercatchers and entered the dramatic cliff-lined King George River. The 1.8 billion year-old layered sandstone never cease to impress with the horizontal and vertical cracking creating towers of rocky blocks. Particularly impressive are the numbers of verandas over-hanging the river. We speculated how long we would need to wait until one fell. On a smaller scale the unusual honeycomb weathering caused by salt spray was reminiscent of (but better than) modern sculpture.

I spotted a fin of an Indio-Pacific humpback dolphin. This is the hardest to see of the three inshore dolphins of the Kimberly coast. It was a large lone individual, probably a male and it surface several more times and all guests of my boat and those in the following Zodiac saw it. This was a bonus for the trip.

The King George Falls were pumping plenty of water and I manoeuvred the Zodiac to dampen the guests with spray and drops from the edges of the falls without going right under the main drop, as some other enthusiastic boat crews did. I would have preferred the full deluge but my crew would have mutinied (the story of the Koolama was still fresh in their minds).

I spotted two Mertens Water Monitors near the base of the falls. One was on a ledge and the other swam past to a rocky crack. They must have been carried over the falls and were stuck at its base. It is a one way trip and they would probably end up as Saltwater Crocodile food -that's nature.

The team of guests and guides who hiked to the top of the gorge told us they also found reptiles in the saltwater near the falls. Greg identified them as a Mertens Water Monitor, a Mitchells Water Monitor, a Northern Death Adder and a Freshwater Crocodile.Mick, our intrepid leader, tried to "rescue" the crocodile but it was not cooperative. Upon Mick grasping its tail, the ‘freshie’ turned and slashed his finger. Now Mick was going to be getting stitched up and would have a crocodile bite scar. I, along with other Expedition staff, was jealous. Every ‘bushie’ needs to have a crocodile scar to have credibility!

I attended the first of two screenings in the lounge of the documentary "Riddle of the Bradshaws" about the Gwion Gwion art of the Kimberley. It was a good follow up to the previous day’s visit to a Gwion Gwion (or Bradshaw) rock art gallery. The documentary, like the art itself, left many unanswered questions.

I drove an afternoon three hour zodiac cruise back to the King George Falls. This time there was light unseasonal rain. It limited the colours on the rocks and wildlife spotting but it did bring out the bush smells and made the rocks of the gorge glisten. Again my boat voted to forgo a waterfall dunking but other boats went from light rain to heavy downpour and back in seconds. After viewing more stranded monitors we turned the Zodiacs for a wet but not cold run back to the Silver Discoverer.

Mick's briefing was particularly amusing tonight as he took the role of the spurned rescuer trying to explain his croc bite.