Sunday, 7 August 2016

Half-lap Day 92: Shark Bay

The wind blew all night, and while the tent flapped around a bit we were fairly well protected in our little corner and we didn’t ever worry that things would blow away. It was our coldest morning in a very long time, we were rugged up for breakfast and even when the sun was up it was still quite chilly.

We had a relaxed morning at the caravan park, talking to our neighbour, patting dogs, playing with toys. The day did warm up a bit as it got later, although it didn’t get really hot. Late in the morning we got organised and went for a drive back down the peninsula, stopping first at Eagle Bluff. There was a lookout high on a cliff, looking down a sloping hillside into a bay. We’d heard that you could see sharks and rays and turtles swimming in the water down here – the wind was ruffling the top of the water quite significantly, and at first we couldn’t see anything. The water was clear underneath the rippling surface. We looked out towards Eagle Island, which was covered in birds, and noticed a dark shape swimming in the water nearby. We watched it cover the channel between the island and the shore, and as it got closer we could clearly see that it was a shark. It was clearer at times as it swum close to the surface, then just a dark shape again when it was lower in the water. We watched it for quite a while, once again amazed at its elegance in the water. We walked along a boardwalk that followed the cliff top, read the interpretive signs, and looked out for more marine life. We could see brown shapes, a lot of them, moving along one channel in the water, but couldn’t see anything clearly, we think were probably rays. LiAM and I saw another black shape moving near some seagrass – we watched it for a while, then it stopped and seemed to be feeding on the bottom. We used my telephoto lens, LiAM’s binoculars and another couple’s stronger binoculars, but couldn’t get a clear view of what it might be. We thought it could be a large turtle and thought at one point we saw patterning – but it didn’t ever come up for air, even when it started moving again. We watched it for a while longer and eventually thought it might be a ray – some of them are patterned. We tore ourselves away eventually and walked back down the boardwalk, seeing a few more shapes in the bay – exciting even if we weren’t sure what they were. Tony had made some sandwiches while LiAM and I were still watching the water, so we had some lunch before moving on.

From there we drove down to Shell Beach. Millie wasn’t very keen on more sightseeing, we convinced her to come and have a look though and she really did love it. There was a large expanse of what looked like sand, between the edge of the foliage and the edge of the water. It was ridged, like sand dunes, and as we walked over it we discovered that it was mainly shells. The shells here were broken up and we could see bits of sand mixed with them, if we dug down a bit deeper though there were only shells. When we reached the slope that led down to the water, the surface of the ground was completely covered in shells, mainly whole. The water was clear and a bit choppy due to the wind. It is possible to swim here (although the water is very salty) – there were lots of jellyfish blobbing around in the water though so we didn’t go in. We sat on the beach and ran our hands through the shells – they are mainly little cockle shells, and at first glance they all seemed to be the same, white and the same cockle shape. As we sifted through them though we discovered lots of different colours – shades of white, pink, yellow, grey, orange – and shapes – conical shells, bigger and smoother shells, and lots of different sizes. We made a collection of all the different types we could find and laid them out on an area that LiAM cleared of shells. Our favourite was a glossy pinkish spiral shell, with silvery lines through it. Caitlin lay in the shells and had me bury her in them, all except her head, which looked pretty strange. They were deep enough to treat them like sand and make big piles or holes, and it felt really cool to run our fingers through them. It was interesting to watch too, as people came to the beach many of them just lay down on the shells like we were, just enjoying the sunlight and the view across the water and the feel of the shells.

We decided to checkout Whalebone campground on our way back, which is where the people we met yesterday had seen the dugongs. Millie stayed in the car, she’d had enough by now, while Caitlin, LiAM and I wandered down to the shore and along the rocks. We didn’t see any dugongs but it was a beautiful bay, with headlands either side. Tony walked up to the top of one of the headlands and we joined him. Looking across the water was cool, seeing the darker patches where the seagrass was and getting a feel for how big the bay is – we couldn’t see land if we looked to the southeast, where the bay ends.

Once we got back to our tent I had a nap, the warm afternoon and several early mornings had me feeling quite sleepy. I hung out in the tent after I woke up, catching up on a few things and enjoying the quiet. The kids played with their toys in the annex and wandered around the caravan park patting dogs and chatting to people. The wind had died down a bit by now and it wasn’t quite as cold. Tony and the girls walked over to the supermarket and Caitlin found the clearance shelf, she was keen for me to go back and have a look at it with her. We had dim sims and mashed potatoes for tea and then got ready for bed, reading for a while before falling asleep more easily now that the tent wasn’t flapping in the wind.

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