Day 1 - May 2, 2014 - Darwin, Western Australia
By Malcolm Turner, Naturalist
Co-ordinates: 12°28′19″S 130°50′45″E
Weather: Clear and sunny
Air Temperature: 36ºC
Pressure: 1018 hPa
Wind: 5 knots
Darwin is a busy port these days with ships coming and going. And it was also busy on the dock beside Silver Discoverer. A hive of activity was apparent as the shore teams and crew busily re-fuelled the vessel and loaded provisions for the upcoming voyage. Arriving guests went through a rapid Australian Customs check in the new terminal building and cast their eyes on the Silver Discoverer for the first time. Once aboard they were met with a cool drink and friendly smiles, enjoyed lunch and got settled into their suites. Darwin was warm and very humid and it was a relief for many to relax on the decks and meet fellow guests as the afternoon cooled.
Many had spent some time exploring the bustling town of Darwin and surrounding natural wonders such as Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. Darwin Harbour was named after Charles Darwin himself by Wickham and Stokes, two of his former shipmates from the Beagle. They had become important explorers and charterers of the Kimberley coast and they were the ones who discovered the large natural harbour we were floating in. We will hear more of them later in the voyage, no doubt.
We met in the Discoverer Lounge for a mandatory safety briefing, donned our life jackets, negotiated the clasps and then went to the top deck to see the muster stations and the lifeboats themselves. At about 16:30 the lines were cast off and we set off to sea. We watched as the city of Darwin was passed by and receded in view. I spotted a few birds in the harbour, namely Crested Terns, Silver Gulls and Reef Herons. These were only a taste of the ornithological delights to come.
The departure of the harbour pilot from Silver Discoverer onto the small pilot boat was entertainment to some. The ship passed the entrance of the harbour and we turned to the north and boldly headed out into the Timor Sea and set course for Leti Island in Indonesia.
We gathered for an introduction to some of the ship’s important crew, including the Expedition Team. Expedition Leader Mick Fogg gave us a comprehensive overview of our voyage and whetted our appetites for what will surely be a trip of a lifetime. The final business of the day was enjoying a sumptuous dinner prepared by our Executive Chef Pia, whether in the Dining Room or by ‘hot-rock’ on the Pool Deck.
We were rocked to sleep by the gentle waves of the Timor Sea dreaming of the open ocean marine life we might see the next day (well I did at least).
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