Day 12. Thursday 16 August.
D started the day with a bonus zodiac visit to the Horizontal Falls on the outgoing tide. A 2 metre visitor before the zodiacs loaded created great excitement, particularly for Re (Rebecca) and Danni, our two shark specialists in the naturalist crew.
The falls, and there are two about 300 metres apart in line, are created by the tide entering and leaving huge landlocked embayments through two narrow gaps in the cliffs of the McLarty Range. The seawater builds up faster on one side of the gaps, the massive banking up resulting in the waterfalls. The waterfalls can be as high as 5 metres apparently; we saw drops of about 2 metres and that was impressive.
The zodiacs from L’Austral took it in turns to enter the area just before the fall and face into the oncoming flow. Great whirlpools, eddies and occasional waves made the trip just a bit exciting, but the craft were remarkably stable – less bumping than crossing the choppy water we’d faced on a few trips previously. This didn’t seem to matter in one boat – man overboard, although he retained his grip on the side ropes and wasn’t completely immersed. The rescue boat and the tour leader’s boat were there promptly!
We’ve shared most of the locations in the past few days with a vessel named “True North’. Our safety guidelines have been explicit and comprehensive and very sensible. We’ve watched with horrified bemusement as people in tinnies, including children, have not bothered with life jackets or PFDs – they are mandatory for us. On one occasion we were told, a vessel was observed underway at speed with children sitting on the bow! L’Austral crew are frank in describing some other tour operators as ‘red-neck cowboys’.
Perhaps the most annoying incident occurred at the falls this morning. The L’Austral zodiacs were waiting to enter the falls in turn in an orderly manner for obvious safety reasons, when three True North tinnies appeared, and when asked politely to wait a minute for a gap, just replied ‘Nup’ and arrogantly barged through at speed. Not a good look, True North, and definitely not a good advertisement for your business.
A late morning zodiac trip back to the falls and beyond for both T & D. The tide had turned, so we were now observing the water entering the bays with reverse urgency. Our zodiacs, powered with a single 60 HP motor, do not attempt to cross the waterfall, an adventure only attempted (usually) by specialist boats.
Talbot Bay was busy…seaplanes, helicopters, a couple of houseboats and a small yacht kept us company. We must be getting closer to civilization!
At the entrance to the falls we were treated to a good overview of the size and strength of the flow: in the larger gap which is 22 metres wide and 40 metres deep, a million litres of water flow in one second. During this activity another man went overboard: apparently in both cases the boat had been caught in turbulent waterfall and tipped up, throwing one person overboard and others to the floor. Sod’s law that the careful and safe operation should have mishaps, but in both cases the ejectee was quickly, if not easily, hauled back on board.
After the visit to the falls we investigated other parts of Talbot Bay, specifically Cyclone Creek. We were privileged to catch several fleeting glimpses of a Rock Wallaby, plus some interesting fauna: the Kimberley Rose and an unusual yellow leaved Mangrove. The rock formations here are very different from the flat layered sandstone which we’ve been seeing. Here, the layers are tilted at 80 degrees, having been forced upward millions of years ago. The scale of time is hard to take in. The effect reminds us of rock formations at Karajini, which we visited 11 years ago.
Then on to our short fast boat ride to and through the falls – although only the first, wider one, as the second, at half the width, was deemed too dangerous at that stage of the tide. So, after a bit of a look and a couple of circuits around the bay in front, we zoomed through like kids in drag cars, and zoomed back to do it all again a couple of times! Good fun, but also a demonstration of the volume and power of the water. The fast boat, carrying 40 or so passengers, was powered by four 300 HP outboard motors.
T has discovered the bikes in the gym and has been grateful for generous explanations on how to use them. Short sessions working the horrible foot give her a wee sense of dealing with a sedentary lot and the sciatica from bumping in the zodiac.