Friday, October 31, 2008

A word from Alby (Aka "Wombat")

“Hello World” Alby Mangels here (AKA Wombat, or Scott for those non the wiser). Steve and Terry (AKA Brett & Kelsey) has given up the ghost. Its 9.30pm and we have just arrived back from the Seisa Fishing Club where we enjoyed a fish burger and a few beers. We had some fantastic entertainment by the leading (probably only) band in the area.

Today has been a long day. Our day was via car, plane, bus, boat, ferry and on foot. After an early start this morning we finally reached Seisa at about 3.45pm. As soon as we arrived we high tailed out to Seafaris (Greg Bethune) where Brett has all his gear stored.

It certainly seems that Greg has been a huge part of this whole adventure for Brett, and would certainly a lot more difficult without him.

Greg has lent us a boat, a vehicle and shared some fantastic advice, to float everything to Crab Tomorrow. We have spent the afternoon and early evening getting the boat cleaned up and organised, which in the end was very satisfying. Having to start fresh tomorrow would have made a long day and probably put us back a day on getting to crab.

Tomorrow is where the real adventure begins. From the stories I have heard over the recent days, this blogspot is a G rated version. I encourage all of you to grill all individuals concerned to get the facts!!!!!

We have landed in the Torres Strait.

We arrived in the Torres Strait today after leaving Cairns early this morning. The views from the plane were spectacular as we flew over the Great Barrier Reef and the myriad of island and coral complexes. After landing on Horn Island we jumped on a boat to Thursday Island. We had a few hours on island where we enjoyed the cultural centre and learned about the fascinating Torres Strait Islander culture, before exploring the island on foot.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alby Mangels / the Wombat has landed.

Yes, the Wombat has landed! We are excited to have my big bro Scott along for the ride and to spice up the adventure. Scott flew in this afternoon from Port Macquarie to Cairns. The big fella is pumped. This is his first time visiting Cape York/ Torres Strait and his first experience with sea turtles and crocodiles (which reminds me – I should mention to him that they bite!).

Kelsey & I flew from Brisbane yesterday and arrived in Cairns relieved to take in the fresh air after having to sit next to smelly, loud, obnoxious, non-deodorant wearing football players lacking social manners on their end of year trip to North Queensland. We are currently sitting in Cairns airport awaiting our flight to the Torres Strait. From there we will take a boat to Thursday Island, before boarding another boat to take us across to the mainland.

Flatback Backpacks

The normal technique for attaching satellite transmitters to sea turtles is by glueing them directly to the carapace. Not with flatbacks however. They have a soft skin which covers their carapace – when you scratch it, it actually bleeds. Attaching via this method is ineffective as the turtle sheds it’s skin and they detach quite easily. Therefore we have designed a harness or ‘backpack’ for attaching the transmitters. They are made out of nylon webbing and stainless steel. We have incorporated a ‘weak link’ which will eventually corrode and release the harness and transmitter from the turtle.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Programming the satellite trackers

It is a complex business tracking sea turtles. The satellite trackers have to be programmed to ensure efficiency in transmission and longer battery life – this means making them automatically turn on during periods when the turtle is most likely surfacing. I have also programmed them to turn on during the peak times in which Argos satellites are passing over Cape York. There are 5 satellites in total and each pass only lasts 10-15 minutes each day. I have programmed them to go into ‘standby’ mode at 4pm each day and turn off at 10pm. They are then turned on when the turtle surfaces to breath by a change in the conductivity and wet/ dry sensor. This then sends a quick signal to a satellite which is hopefully in range at the time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Satellite trackers have arrived..

After much delay the satellite trackers have arrived from America (albeit with an added import tax as a nice surprise from the Australian government)! We now need to set these up with harnesses to attach to the flatbacks and program them ready for deployment.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Cape York wilderness

We left the Northern Peninula Area a little lighter than when we arrived, leaving a lot of our gear (hidden) on the island and other gear in Seisia ready for our return in a couple of weeks. Our trip back down through the Cape York wilderness and along the old telegrath track took a few days. On the first night we camped at Eliot and Twin Falls and enjoyed the beautiful, clear spring fed water. After weeks taking salt water showers, the fresh water of the falls felt like paradise!

The next night we pulled up in Lakefield National Park, and camped by a billabong. No shortage of excitement here! Wild pigs in our camp, agile wallabies in and around us, dozens of fresh water crocodiles in the billabong and we discovered a new technique in catching barramundi - by tickling them! The night was filled with wild sounds of the bush - barking owls, barramundi 'boofing', scrub fowls, crocodiles, wallabies hopping through camp, small mammals scurrying and wild pigs! The morning was spent driving through the breathtaking landscape of Lakefield, with it's wetlands and billabongs, termite mound studded plains and array of bird life. We were excited to see birds such as brolgas, jabirus, radjah shellducks, jacanas, magpie geese and Australian bustards.

The next day we explored the Laura area and were mesmorized by the Quinkan Aboriginal rock art sites. The Quinkans contain some of the largest collections of rock art in the world. They represent ancestral spirits who lived in the cracks and crevices of the rocks - some were good and protected them, others were bad and crept around at night. It is an eery feeling walking into the area and knowing that 40,000 years before there were Aboriginals at this site painting their stories in the caves and on rock overhangs.

The landscape changed as we entered the Daintree rainforest and drove the rough, steep and rugged Bloomfield Track from Cooktown. The freshness and coolness of the rainforest was soothing after weeks of hot weather on Crab.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"The Tip"

While around Seisia we decided to take a drive out to the most northerly point of the Australian mainland. On the way up we called in to The Croc Tent...the only souvenir and information shop on the way. It is run by a friendly couple who we spent time chatting with about our Flatback sea turtle research. Finally we reached a point where there was no more road. So we hopped out of the 4WD and walked the rest of the way to the tippety-top of Australia. We enjoyed the amazing views of Frangipani Beach and Torres Strait Islands to the west, and the Great Barrier Reef’s Islands to the east. We could even see Green sea turtles off shore…they are in this area right now to mate. As we stood together observing the beauty of it all we were greeted by a Green sea turtle who popped up right in front of us. Before departing we had a nice picnic on Frangipani Beach. Then on the way back to Seisia we stopped at a beach by Albany Channel. Here we wadded through the water and walked on lava formed rocks in order to reach a sandstone outcropping which formed a cave. Inside the cave was Aboriginal rock art which dates back thousands of years.