Navy Pier Dive

Near Exmouth is a renowned shore dive site off a pier operated by the Australian Navy  The pier’s intended function is to allow diesel supply ships to dock every few months to offload diesel for the dedicated power station that supplies power to the nearby very low frequency (VLF) transmitter.    The VLF facility was built in the 1960’s by the US Navy to support communications submarines while underwater which requires both a low radio frequency and enormous power to penetrate under water.    In fact the town of Exmouth owes its existence to this facility as it was originally founded to support the US Navy Base associated with the VLF transmitter.     Although control was handed over to the Australian Navy in 1999, the facility still supports underwater communications for both the US and Australian Navy.

vlf antenna info
Information sign for the VLF communication station.  It was renamed by the US Navy in 1967 in honour of the Australian Prime Minister who famously disappeared one day while swimming in the ocean.    The antenna structure is quite impressive with towers taller than the Empire State building and to put it in perspective, the 1 megawatt RF transmission power is of a similar magnitude to the transmission power of all the mobile phone towers in Sydney combined.  
navy pier
The Exmouth Navy Pier

Although it was built as a naval facility, this is probably only its tertiary purpose as it is used by the Navy only once or twice a year when a supply ship docks.   On the other hand because the pier is normally closed to the general public (hence no fishing takes place) and it seldom sees shipping traffic, it has become a haven for wildlife both above and below the water.   So I would say its primary purpose is seagull perch/toilet and fish shelter.

Fortunately the Navy allows divers to access to the pier under very controlled conditions on days when they are not using it, which is most days, so its secondary purpose (based on frequency of use) is a dive site.   According to some references, it is one of the top ten dive sites in the world, so how could we possibly miss the opportunity to see for ourselves?

dive ed
Although it is a shore based dive, the Navy has licensed only one operator to run dives there. Before heading to the dive site a video explains the process of getting permission to dive, where photographs are permitted and prohibited etc.   Everyone needs to have their ID ready in case there is a spot check.    
navy pier exmouth
Looking back after arriving on the pier.    The 350+ metre high radio masts can be seen behind and some of the many thousands of gulls can be seen on the pier.  Consequently the place was rather smelly.
bird perch pier
More secret navy seagulls.   While there were thousands of them, it was merely a foretaste of the number of fish we were about to see.

 Getting ready to go

The entry involved jumping off a platform 2 metres above the water.

about to giant stride
Ready to jump
looking gorgeous
Made it – let’s go
We were immediately struck by the sheer numbers of fish congregating around the structure – In this instance barracuda
come look at all the fish
Come – there are more fish over here.   Normally the nutrient rich waters and tidal currents stir up the silt and limit visibility to about 5 to 7 metres, so we were exceptionally lucky to have relatively clear water with visibility extending to 15m.    It made the schools of fish appear even more impressive.   We were told that conditions like this occur only a few times a year. 

The interesting thing was how relaxed the fish were.  Normally I am not able to get close photo’s of angelfish and butterfly fish like these side on as they usually swim away when I approach to take a picture.

long fin bannerfish
Long fin banner fish with striped snapper below
bad hair day
There was so much to see that Maddy forgot she was having a bad hair day.   As for me – well all I can say is that it’s not surprising that fish normally swim away when I approach.  S 
the mob
The place was a fisherman’s nightmare – huge shoals of spangled emperor, all off limits to fishing.  
bfg 4
The highlight of the dive was when this giant grouper came over to greet us.
bfg 5
He was not ashamed to give eye contact.
bfg 6
He was huge, probably about 2m long and definitely heavier than either of us – even with all our scuba gear.
maddy and batfish
Our old favourite – the batfish.
its amore
A moray eel lurking 12 metres down on the bottom

Pilbara Industry

The north west corner of Australia has some unique and dramatic natural landscape – but that is not all.   I agree that is more pleasing and serene to gaze over a blue pool fringed with green reeds and ferns in a deep red gorge than it is to look out over a massive iron ore mine with it’s hustle of giant trucks, processing plants and trains.   However it would be wrong not to mention the latter and while some hold that it is ugly,  I for one can’t help but be impressed by most of it.  S

Iron ore mining is probably the most well know industry in this region and depending on one’s information source, it accounts for 3 to 4% of Australia’s GDP.   Rio Tinto is the major iron ore company in the area, however there are also many other large players such as BHP and Fortesque Metals.

iron ore mine map
Map of some of the iron ore mines around Tom Price in the Tom Price visitor centre.  Rio, BHP and FMG are shown in orange, green and blue respectively.   Several other players are also present and there are several other mining areas to the north and west of this map.
mt tom price mine
View of some of Rio Tinto’s Tom Price mining operations from the summit of Mt Nameless.
iron ore trucks at mesa mine
Famous of the iron ore mines (and other open cut mining operations), are the large trucks that carry ore from the extraction point to the next phase of processing,   While it’s hard not to think of a toy truck when looking at their shape, they are actually over 9m wide, 15m long and can carry over 350 tonnes.
iron ore truck
While many of Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore mines now operate self driving trucks to save on labour costs, we noticed that this particular mine (Mesa A) still had drivers in the cabs.
iron ore road trains
From the mines, the processed ore need to transported to shipping ports on the coast.   Some mines use road trains to transport ore to a rail head
iron ore train
However many mines have private rail lines leading directly to the port 
bhp hillside base station
Here a road train carrying ore from Atlas Iron’s Mount Webber Mine is crossing BHPs private iron ore rail line.    The tower in the background is of particular interest to me as it supports 4G base station equipment from Nokia (my employer) that BHP uses in a private LTE network to support data communications along the rail line.
bts close up
Here the Nokia radio modules can be seen beneath the large flat panel antennas.  While I could identify the radio units,  I could not identify what bird had built the nest. 
rio tinto rail map
We visited Dampier, which is Rio Tinto’s primary port location where it runs 2 ship loading facilities.  Leading to Dampier and the adjacent Cape Lambert, Rio has over 1700km of private rail which is shown on this map at a lookout in Dampier.  
iron ore rail trucks
Here two iron ore trains are lined up for offloading at Port Dampier.   These trains have over 200 trucks and are several kilometers long .     These two have already commenced unloading at the port which is nearly 2km from where this photo was taken
ship loading
The port isn’t open to the public, but from our caravan park we got a serene view of iron ore pouring off a conveyor into a ship at dusk.

While definitely second to Iron ore, offshore natural gas is also a very large economic contributor of the region with several processing plants located along the coast.   Woodside Petroleum and Chevron being the lead operators.

karratha gas plant
The Karratha Gas Plant near Dampier processes gas and some oil from wells about 150km offshore producing liquified natural gas (LNG) for export by ship; domestic gas which is sent by pipeline to Perth and surrounds; LPG and some heavier hydrocarbon condensate.  The latter being sold to petroleum refineries overseas or on the east coast or Australia.
woodside gas art
A monument to injured workers at the Karratha Gas Plant visitor centre.

Visitor centre photos of two of the offshore platforms (Rankin A and B) and an aerial shot of the gas plant.  The platforms rest on the seabed about 130m below the water level where shafts over 3km deep reach down to the gas and oil.

nws gas
A view of the Karratha Gas Plant from Angel Island in the Dampier Archipelago.  
gas and iron ore ships
A loaded LNG ship and iron ore ship make their way out from Dampier.

Finally salt mining also presents a very visible impact in the area, albeit probably some orders of magnitude smaller from an economic point of view.  Interestingly, the salt mines appear to be mostly owned by Rio Tinto.

salt mine facts

dampier salt mine
One of the salt evaporation ponds seen from a viewing platform. 

Warning: Don’t buy a Toyota Prado to travel in remote Australia

Unfortunately our decision to buy a new Toyota Landcruiser Prado for our tour around Australia has turned out to be a bad one.   It seems that recent developments in engine monitoring technology have lead to a regression rather than an improvement in its utility as an off-road vehicle for touring remote parts of Australia.

While we are normally reluctant to publish negative matters on this blog, we understand that several people are following our blog with the aspiration of doing something similar to us and we feel that they should be aware of our experience in this case.

On opening the bonnet of the latest Prado one is immediately stuck by the number of wires connected to a myriad of sensors attached to various parts of the engine.  When I took delivery of the Prado I certainly wondered what would happen if one of the sensors malfunctioned.   Well we have had such an experience, which over the last few months has cost us dearly in wasted time and missed opportunities.   However, the truly frustrating thing is that it was not a faulty sensor that caused our woes (in fact the sensor was valid in reporting a compromised situation*) but that the car’s designed reaction to that sensor’s input is so totally inappropriate.  What is even more frustrating is that despite prolonged discussions with Toyota, they don’t seem to feel that there is anything wrong with the current design.     So on reading this please let me know if you come to the same conclusion as I do (or if you feel Toyota is right).

* We have also learned that the actual compromised situation is caused by a known design flaw that has been reported in the media:     Incredibly not only did Toyota not proactively raise this to us when discussing our problems, but even went as far as lying about the problem and saying that we were the first to raise this issue with them.    Given this mind-boggling arrogance and dishonesty, we would now go further:  don’t just avoid buying a Prado, avoid buying a Toyota – period.

Prior to publishing this (and prior to becoming aware of the known design fault with the air filter), I sent the wording below to Toyota to give them the opportunity to correct any possible misunderstandings, however they have not responded.

We first became aware of a problem when cruising on an open sealed road and the car suddenly let out a bong and the words “check engine”; “pre-crash safety malfunction”; “reduced engine power”; “visit your dealer” appeared on the console.  At the same time the corresponding indicator lights for the engine, pre-crash safety system as well as the traction control system came on.   So we stopped and looked at the engine, but could not see anything obviously wrong.  Knowing that the pre-crash safety system relies on a radar mounted behind the Toyota logo on the front of the car and a windscreen mounted camera and both were a bit dirty, I cleaned both and restarted the engine.  After this, the words “reduced engine power” were no longer appearing and the engine power certainly felt normal, however the “check engine” and “pre-crash safety malfunction” messages were still there, so we abandoned our immediate touring plans and headed as directly as we could to the closest Toyota dealer which was about 400km away.

To cut a long story short, we have now experienced this problem 3 times and after 3 inconvenient visits to get it fixed and numerous calls to Toyota we have developed the following understanding of the problem.

One of the many sensors in the engine is the mass airflow sensor (MAF sensor).  It sits just behind the air filter and is intended to monitor if too much dust has managed to get past the air filter.  Toyota tells us that when this sensor triggers, it reduces engine power (to protect the engine) and disables the traction control system.   The pre-crash safety system (a technology to automatically apply the brakes if the car detects an obstruction ahead) in turn relies on the correct functioning of the traction control system, so this is therefore also disabled.

So basically the messages “check engine” and “pre-crash safety malfunction” are related to dust in the air intake !?!

To me a far more informative message would be “dust detected in air intake”.  When I suggested this, one person at Toyota gave me the excuse that with all the inputs from many sensors it is hard to design a system that can correctly report all types of faults.  Seriously?  In an age where car makers are developing driverless cars is it really too hard for a system to conclude that when the sensor that detects dust in the air intake triggers, that the likely cause might well in fact be dust in the air intake?    Furthermore for a car that is purported to be suited to off-road travel, and hence be expected to travel on dusty roads shouldn’t it be even more important to get this right?    I have raised this with Toyota but have been told that their technical experts have reviewed our case and concluded that nothing needs to be changed.

I was also told that the car is designed to limit power when this sensor triggers “to protect the engine”.   Yes, this did happen initially, but as soon as I restarted the car after these messages first appeared (and all subsequent starts) it resumed operating at normal power.    Now if Toyota’s intent was to protect the engine, surely a more appropriate way to do this would be to advise the driver that there is dust in the air intake so that they could decide on an appropriate course of action to actually protect the engine – like changing the air-filter (or at least cleaning it).   Again, for a car that is purported to be suitable for off-road use in remote areas, Toyota should understand that it is not possible to simply drive up the road and visit a dealer so why not give the driver the opportunity to proactively prevent further dust damage in the meantime?    However, I am told that their technical experts again disagree and in one call was told rather patronisingly that by changing an air filter I could risk allowing something to drop into the engine that could result in serious damage.   Firstly, this would be extremely difficult to achieve as air is drawn upwards through the filter so whatever it is, would have to be deliberately thrown upwards to get towards the engine.  Secondly there is a barrier that would prevent all but the smallest of items going through anyway and thirdly, anyone who is familiar enough with engines to change an air filter will know to be cautious.

When I asked why the detection of dust in the air intake requires the traction control system (and hence pre-crash safety system) to be disabled.  I was given an explanation to the effect that “multiple systems get disabled to protect the engine”.   Again, for a car that is purported to be appropriate for use in remote areas where the owner probably needs to drive several hundred kilometers to visit a dealer, why disable systems that are designed to increase the safety of the occupants?   On this matter, like before, I have been told that Toyota’s technical experts have reviewed this and conclude that nothing needs to be changed.

While one could hope that our experience with this one issue is an exception, the fact that Toyota’s technical experts have reviewed this case and come to the conclusion that nothing needs to be changed (or so I am told), makes me wonder how many other algorithms in Toyota’s electronic engine management and supervisory systems are either half-baked or designed by people in ivory towers.     The fact that Toyota is facing a class action over an issue with their diesel particulate filters further affirms to me that they have lost the edge where it comes to such things and also appear to initially adopt a position of denial and attempt to brush things under the carpet when problems are first raised.  

So in this light I can only conclude that the designers of the Prado have the mindset that it is only going to be used on sealed roads where dust is not a common issue and operated close to cities or major regional towns so that you can easily visit a dealer whenever one of its sensors feels a bit uncomfortable and causes it to throw up a random message or warnings.

It reminds us a bit of the story of the princess and the pea so we have decided to rename our car “Princess” – we even found a suitable bumper sticker at a roadhouse.   S

princess sign

Very pathetic! A four wheel drive that complains about dust! Hope there is a Toyota dealer on the Birdsville track!!!! M


More Karijini Gorges then on to Millstream Chichester National Park

Our last couple of days at Karijini were spent at the Karijini Eco Retreat campground on the western part of the Park.  This is the same area where I did the canyoning trip, but we decided to spend a bit more time here to see some of the other gorges in our own time.    First up was Kalamina Gorge.  Not as deep as the other gorges and a rather corrugated 25km drive from the camp, but this had the advantage of making it less popular.

kalamina gorge
Kalamina Gorge
banded iron
Folded banded iron rocks in Kalamina Gorge
kalamina gorge pool
Serene views in Kalamina Gorge

kalamina gorge2

Various textures on the gorge rock floor

The following day we descended Weano Gorge, most of which is an easy walk except the last bit where a handrail and some steps have been installed to give access to the aptly named “handrail pool”.  From there one could wade another 100m down the gorge before the way is blocked by warning signs (in the good old days one could continue down into Red Gorge then back up Hancock Gorge – a rather hair-raising adventure where there was allegedly 1 rescue needed for every 300 visitors).

handrail pool walk 2
Descending Weano Gorge

steve handrail pool walk

weano handrail pool entry
The handrail leading to the eponymous pool

handrail pool

handrail pool panorama
Handrail Pool panorama.  I continued down the wade through the gap.   As Maddy was still not feeling 100%, she had a good excuse to not brave the water which was probably about 15 C.
weano crow
We had tea and biscuits at handrail pool while being watched by the local corvid.   This could be a Little Raven but is probably a Torresian Crow.   It’s hard to tell them apart unless they speak.
handrail pool exit
While the handrail sticks out like the proverbial, the steps have been thoughtfully made by bolting blocks of the local rock onto the wall.
oxers lo
After climbing out of Weano Gorge we walked to the nearby Oxer’s lookout where one can see the junction of 4 gorges.  Entering from the left is Weano Gorge.  Red Gorge continues down centre left.  Joffre Gorge enters on centre right and Hancock Gorge enters on the right 
joffre gorge
Later that afternoon we visited the falls at upper Joffre Gorge – a short walk from the camp site but involves a slightly exposed scramble to get down.  
joffre falls
While the falls were reduced to a trickle, it was still impressive to experience the dramatic amphitheater.
gorgeous gorge girl
On the way out Maddy is clearly happy to have the tricky scrambling bit behind her.

After over a week in the Karijini area, we started back towards the coast stopping at Hamersley Gorge for the morning before heading on to Millstream-Chichester National Park for the night.

hammersley gorge rock
More bent and buckled banded iron at Hamersley Gorge
hammersley gorge lower pools
Hamersley Gorge lower pool.  A bit chilly, but lovely swimming down between the banded cliffs
hammersley gorge upper pool
Upper pool at Hamersley Gorge

millstream park sign

deep reach
Millstream-Chichester, sounds like a quaint English village, but is mostly harsh arid shrubland.   However this stretch of the Fortesque River forms a large beautiful pool where water, which normally flows beneath the surface, is pushed up by the local geography.  At a push this could maybe remind one of the rolling green hills of England 
deep reach pool danger
Despite all the risks, I could not resist taking a dip.   The water was lovely.
milstream pool
Fortesque River Panorama
view from mt Herbert
Looking to the coastal plains from the summit of mighty Mount Herbert – at only 400m above sea level it was probably too low to justify an altitude risk sign.

pilbara purple flower

python pool
Python Pool – a perennial waterhole in Millstream Chichester NP.  
weird bird 1
After nearly 3 weeks without seeing a new bird, this one had me a bit excited.   However it turned out to be a Brown Songlark, which I had seen back in December so the bird drought continues.
mulla mulla flowers
Mulla mulla – a striking plant growing on the roadside through much of the Pilbara.


Karijini Canyoning

While many of Karijini’s gorges are openly accessible to visitors, increasing numbers of rescues and a particularly unpleasant accident in 2004 lead to the more tricky parts being closed off and only accessible on a guided tour.   So on one of our days in Karijini I joined a tour which involved descending the narrow chasm of Knox Gorge with an abseil and rock slide over a 3m drop; then a sedate paddle up the wide Red Gorge before climbing back out of Hancock Gorge, which had an easy rock climb thrown in for excitement.   The tour company provides all equipment like wetsuits, harnesses, drybags and warm clothing and also takes photos, so all you need to do is turn up with budgie smugglers and a credit card and they provide the rest.

However I was told that they might take a week or so to send me the photos, so instead of waiting I have decided to write up this post and include a few of my own photos taken with my cheap and nasty Go-Pro rip-off and update it at a later date with additional photos (hopefully of better quality) when they arrive.

Maddy’s cold was particularly awful at this time and with this trip requiring one to spend 5 or 6 hours cold and wet, it would not have been wise to join me so sadly she had to stay behind in Tom Price.  S

setting forth down knox gorge
Setting forth all decked up with the colours of the aboriginal flag

L-R: Water slide then abseil down Knox Gorge; view of the exit of Knox Gorge into Red Gorge

paddling down red gorge
A nice sedate paddle down Red Gorge
lower Hancock
Heading up Hancock Gorge
rock climb out hancock gorge
Rock climb followed by a traverse in Hancock Gorge.   It was here that Jim Regan, an SES volunteer, was swept to his death in 2004 by a flash flood while rescuing a tourist that had fallen and injured herself.   Before then people used to scramble up and down this rock climb section without ropes so it is little wonder that the park authorities had to close it off to visitors.
memorial to a
Memorial to Jim Regan above Hancock Gorge

Karijini National Park – Dales Gorge and Mt Meharry

Karijini National Park covers parts of the Hammersley Ranges in the Pilbara region in NW Australia.   The rocks in this area are understood to have been formed about 2500 million years ago on submerged continental shelves in the form of layers of iron rich hematite and quartz which have far more recently been raised above sea level.  Even more recently, gorges have been carved through these layers to produce dramatic ravines with banded red and black rock walls.

fortescue falls
Fortesque Falls in Dales Gorge
steve at fortescue falls
Fortesque Falls
ferns at fern pool
Maidenhair ferns at Fern Pool near the top of Dales Gorge
fern pool
Fern Pool.   With a temperature in the low 20s, it is one of the rare warmish pools in Karijini National Park and is a great swimming spot.
dales gorge
Looking down Dales Gorge
dales gorge from fortescue falls
Dales Gorge

Banded Iron formations in Dales Gorge

Pheasant Coucal close
A fearless pheasant coucal wandered past literally 3 metres away 
dales gorge
Typical Pilbara banded iron in Dales Gorge

dales gorge walk

circular pool dales gorge
Circular Pool – at the bottom of a subsidiary gorge to Dales Gorge – viewed from a lookout.
circular pool lookout
Looking up at the lookout and the photographer
circular pool bottom
Circular Pool from the bottom – nice and “refreshing”
asbestos risk sign
While currently best known for it’s iron ore resources, the Pilbara also contains asbestos deposits which were mined in the mid twentieth century – at one point supporting a town of 30,000 people.   Today that town (Wittenoom) has had to be abandoned*.   It would be an interesting place to visit if you were feeling brave, but we weren’t – especially given the high winds we were experiencing on our first few days here.     * Depending on who you talk to, Wittenoom has either been totally depopulated, or there are still up to about 12 die-hards / conspiracy theorists living there.  Either way it is officially de-proclaimed and no longer appears on official maps.
asbestos 1
The lower part of Dales Gorge also contain some native blue asbestos between the bands of iron/quartz.    Like the sign says above, it is supposedly safe when not disturbed.   However…
blue asbestos
… in some parts it appears on the footpath where it shows obvious signs of being trampled.
3 way lookout
Lower Dales Gorge at sunset.

We spent 3 nights at Dales Gorge in the eastern part of Karijini National Park during which time I also climbed Mt Meharry – the highest peak in the state of Western Australia.  Sadly Maddy had succumbed to the lurgy so she did not feel up to joining me neither on Mount Meharry, nor on the gorge adventure tour which I will cover in the next post.   After Dales Gorge we spent a couple of nights in Tom Price then returned to the national park staying at the Karijini Eco Retreat camping area – which will also be covered in another post.

karijini map

heading to meharry
On the way to Mt Meharry.   While it is possible to drive to the top, the last 5km are very rough going.   As I was keen for a bit of exercise and the Prado had once again started flashing a “check engine” warning light, I decided to walk the last 5km.
meharry from road
First view of the mighy Mt Meharry.   OK this is Australia – we are not blessed with towering mountain peaks, especially on the mainland.   So basically anything that provides a view of the surrounding countryside can be called a mountain, and anything more than 500m above said countryside deserves the title “mighty”

meharry trial risk

The authorities in Western Australia are astoudingly productive in the number and diversity of their risk signs.   The summit track pretty much follows the skyline from the right and the summit itself is roughly behind the bush

meharry trail
Approaching the start of the north-west ridge
looking west near summit
Looking west from near the top.
meharry plaque
Despite its potential for stories of a more humorous origin, it seems the mountain was named after a real person.   However the surveying parties must have had a sense of humor because there is also a Mt Bruce and a Mt Sheila in the area – seriously.
mt meharry summit shot
And that ticks off number 6 of the so called “state 8” peaks that I have climbed in Oz.   The others being: NSW (and Australia) – Mt Koscuiszko, which I have visited many times; Victoria – Mt Bogong, which we climbed earlier in this trip;  Queensland – Mt Bartle Frere, an epic jungle trek with leaches and endless rain which I climbed in 2001;  Tasmania – Mt Ossa, which I climbed in 2010 and Mt Bimberi in ACT which I climbed in about 2002.    The remaining two are Mt Zeil in Northern Territory (a bit more of a logistical challenge as you need to arrange permission from national parks and a local station manager) and Mt Woodroffe in South Australia which the local indigenous people allow to be climbed only once per year as a participant in an organised tour.
mt meharry summit panorama
A north eastern panorama from Mt Meharry.   The dust to the east comes from Rio Tinto’s West Angelas iron ore mine.
mt meharry summit distances
An informal distance post on top of Mt Meharry.   Both Jakarta and even Singapore at about 3250km are closer than Sydney

Barn Hill and Eighty Mile Beach

After our backtrack to the Derby Rodeo, we headed west once more to a couple of spots along the coast south-west of Broome.  Our first stop was at the Barn Hill Station camping area, which is situated on cliffs overlooking the ocean (although rather than cramming into one of the view spots we chose a quiet private spot a bit back from the cliffs and enjoyed the views during our walks).

barn hill station sign

The beaches with their rugged cliff backdrops and the calm clear blue ocean were magnificent and made for delightful strolls interspersed with refreshing dips.   As always the photographs below don’t fully do justice to the scenery.

Aside from the beach scenery the campsite itself also offered a few interesting distractions.   It appears this is a good spot to view the legendary drop bear – one of Australia’s most feared predators.   Also being an arid coast line, the camp sites all had a barren gravel bed so we were surprised to see one caravan with some neatly growing lawn out the front.   As with many northern coastal towns, many retired people from southern parts of the country drive up and camp in the winter for a several months to avoid the cold.  So this particular bunch obviously decided to plant and nurture their own patch of lawn once they had set up for the season – and why not?

barnhill fisher people
Fishing was a popular pastime at high tide.   Amazingly we actually saw someone catch something worth keeping.
thats mine
Collecting shells is a favourite pastime for Maddy, however it was not always easy to convince the local residents to part with them.

After 2 nights at Barn Hill we proceeded another 200km west along the coast to the 80 mile beach caravan park.   The name 80-mile beach is unusually understated because the beach is actually over 120 miles long.    So while you would expect that there is plenty of room for everyone, there is only one access point where about 500 people are crowded into a single caravan park.     However the beach is pretty spectacular and well worth a visit to experience its extent, its vast tidal variations and the astonishing number of shells on the beach.  Despite its size, the caravan park is actually quite a nice one, so we spent 2 nights there to fully experience the beach at its various tides and moods.

80 mile beach at low tide2
On 80 mile beach at low tide the water recedes about 500m from the shoreline dunes leaving this vast flat expanse.  When you reach the water you then need to wade out another 200m to get just knee deep making it quite an expedition to go for a swim
frantic fishing at 80 mile beach
Low tide also makes fishing impractical and the fishing addicts get quite crazed.  So at high tide they get to let out their pent up frustrations and flock to the beach in astonishing numbers to fish creating another remarkable spectacle – cars spread out on the beach as far as the eye can see…
80 mile beach at high tide
… in both directions.
80 mile beach from dunes
So we waited for the tide to drop a bit and for the fishermen to return to camp to discuss the ones that they didn’t catch.  We then drove about 8km along the beach to have this expanse to ourselves.  I went looking for shorebirds whilst Maddy collected shells.  Who needs a drone when you have a dune?
80 mile beach at low tide
80 mile beach at mid tide when the fishing isn’t great.  Beautiful and abandoned.
collecting shells
Looking back across the sand flats – Maddy browsing for shells
80 mile sand dollars
An acre or so of sand dollars!
lesser sand plover
Lesser sand plover
great knot on the shell flats
Great Knot feasting among the fields of shells exposed at low tide
red capped plover and shells
and a Red-capped plover

for some reason these red-capped plovers were not getting on so well.